Sometimes, doing an epidemiological health study would not necessarily advance the community's goals. In addition to the actions of public health agencies, community-led efforts can have important impacts.
Community members can take specific steps in order to be well-informed advocates for their community's health. Below are some guidelines for community members who wish to become familiar with the situation in their community.
Know Which Agencies Are Involved
Different agencies have different areas of focus and expertise, as well as different public participation processes. Each agency has unique activities, ranging widely from cleanup of environmental contamination to public health surveillance
and specific investigations of health effects due to contamination. Understanding how each agency is different can help community members know what type of help to request from which agency.Learn more about different agencies that may help your community here.
Understand the Environmental Data
|To find out what you are breathing and if there is a linkbetween pollution and health problems:
After becoming familiar with what is going on in their community, community members can gather together to decide what action they want to take and what resources are needed to accomplish this action.
Assess Needs and Define a Goal
It is important for residents to discuss their concerns about the contamination in their community. Assessing community needs and concerns about environmental health is critical. This discussion can help community members agree on a goal for their efforts. Defining a goal is helpful because community members can focus their resources towards this goal, anticipate the obstacles they will face, and strategize how to overcome those obstacles. Strategizing will help residents make worthwhile use of their valuable time and resources.
Given enough interest and resources, this effort can be achieved using participatory methods. One tool is the Protocol for Assessing Community Excellence in Environmental Health (PACE EH). This protocol provides guidance for communities to systematically conduct and act on an assessment of environmental health status in their communities.
In the Site Assessment Section's experience, the goals pursued by communities in the past include:
- physician education of toxicological effects of contaminants in the community
- community education to prevent exposure
- better oversight of cleanup by regulatory agencies
- increased involvement of multiple agencies
- ensuring that the community's perspective is integrated in local decision-making
There are many different resources related to community development and public health that may help your community identify goals.
|For tools that are applicable to communities interested inpromoting and increasing physical activity:
Increase Community Capacity
Community members can assess what resources and skills are available within the group. With this knowledge, they can determine what additional resources are needed. Community members can build relationships with other advocates and with government agencies to gain support and guidance. In addition, community members may want to gain access to resources such as e-mail, legal counsel, funding, and organizing skills to help sustain their efforts in the long-term.