A new study by the School of Public Health, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, shows a community-placed problem-solving approach, called “Communities That Care,” helps local stakeholders work together to analyze and stop some of the major health issues threatening their own neighborhoods.
“Communities That Care is a fantastic model for how to go about building local coalitions that do their own assessment of assets and risks in their communities and how to best promote health,” said study lead author and Associate Professor Sonya Brady. “Using the prevention system, coalition members decide what issues they want to target through prevention programming, review evidence-based prevention programs, and implement the solution.”
University prevention experts are a part of the process, as well. However, instead of making their own outside assessment of community strengths and problems and prescribing a solution, the experts guide the coalition in using the prevention system, understanding research findings and prevention programs, and evaluating the success of implemented solutions.
Brady applied the Communities That Care (CTC) prevention system and evaluated its use in a Midwestern, ethnically diverse urban community. She surveyed 25 black male youth aged 8–14 years and their caregivers to determine the degree to which coalition-selected priorities aligned with the experience of black families. Dr. Brady’s analysis revealed that the CTC coalition succeeded in identifying prevention focuses that addressed important issues reported by local families.
- The coalition focused on youth-oriented positive social skills and bullying prevention programs, which helps address the fact that 30 percent of youth reported being bullied or bullying someone else on school property.
- The coalition’s planned focus on family transitions and mobility may aid the approximately one-third of caregivers who went on welfare and families who moved to a new home or apartment over the past year.
“These are factors that make it harder for parents to parent,” says Brady. “A community prevention plan should not only focus on the youth, but also what the community can do to provide a more supportive environment for caregivers. If you help caregivers and other adults in the community, you make it a more supportive place for young people because there are, overall, more opportunities available for everyone.”
Brady noted that designing community prevention plans for areas whose residents have experienced historical or current discrimination and inequities will require additional, expanded areas of emphasis. In those areas, prevention programs will also need to address economic, health, housing, transportation, and other structural factors that limit the opportunity and wellbeing of residents.
The study was funded by the Center for Healthy African American Men through Partnerships through the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities.