Organizing for action-planning to meet community health needs

This report relates community organizational activities in two California communities during the author's field work. The field study and the results of community efforts reflect a determination to affect comprehensive health planning at the grassroots level, i.e., to make health planning a real and viable experience rather than have it remain a distant and abstract concept. Involving local citizenry in the resolution of local problems, health or other social needs, is not a new process. The uniqueness in the project lies in the fact that community organization for health needs in the described communities had not been initiated in such a way as to involve the persons who were closest to the problems. Prior to this study, decisions for community health needs have been directed downward from the professional level to the "needy." Furthermore, health needs were determined by County health department personnel with minimal consultation with the local citizenry. Community health organization is a way to revert health planning responsibilities to the people most affected members of small communities who live with the problems day-to-day. It seems reasonable to assume that grassroots groups are best equipped to provide the basis for relevant comprehensive health planning and/or health related planning and for plan implementation . . . action-planning. Helping communities to realize their fullest possible potential and working to develop this potential in action-planning is the essence of this report. It is the application of theory to practice. The objectives of the study are threefold, for they are those of the author, the community (stated or deemed to be so by the author) and sponsoring agencies. The sequences of organizational activities entered into are founded on theories practiced by community organizers in the social disciplines. A search of literature, both past and contemporary, concerning the evolution of community health organization, principles of community organization and the role of the community organizer as they relate to the dimension of public health education is an integral part of this report. The approach seemed logical and of consequence as the project was done in specific situations. The implications for community health organization (community organization for health needs) may far outweigh the visible indicators of success, but in the summary-conclusion, recommendations are made so that some of the pitfalls encountered may be avoided by others who have a commitment to community health improvement. (See more in text.)