This approach requires the participation of community members at every stage of the programme. Community development is a collective action where members of the community participate in assessing the needs of the community and help in the planning of actions, targets and goals to meet those needs. This approach includes the interpersonal skills component of the self-empowerment approach.
At the community level there are many influences over health-related behaviours, some of these such as social and cultural norms, beliefs, and values have been covered in this Module, but influences can also include factors such as the local socio-economic situation of your community and prevailing environmental conditions such as drought or floods.
Community participation is essential for you as a Health Extension Practitioner to understand and deal with those influences. Communities often have detailed knowledge about their history, culture and surrounding environment so it is crucial to include them at all stages of your community development activities. If the community is involved in choosing healthcare priorities and making plans those people are much more likely to become involved in the implementation of your health education activities, and these are more likely to be successful.
Encouraging participation is also important for developing the self-reliance, empowerment and problem-solving skills of your community members, it will also enable you to use locally available resources and help you to create better relationships with the people in the community you are working in.
Spend a few moments thinking about community involvement in a health issue that you are aware of. Who have the active participants been? What was the health issue? What sorts of activities, meetings and information sharing took place? Do you feel that people in the community really felt that they were participating? Do you think anyone resisted the ideas and activities that were going on?
In issues like community participation the more you think about what went on, what worked well, what could be improved as well as who needs 'winning over' next time, the more evidence you are building up for future work.