12th Annual William T. Small, Jr.
Community Organizing and Community Building: Public Health Watchwords for the 21st Century
by Robert E. Fullilove, Ed.D.
Associate Dean for Community and Minority Affairs
and Professor of Sociomedical Sciences
Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University
Health disparities in the United States represent a combination of conditions that are often concentrated in poor communities. In many (but not all) of these places, the task of creating effective interventions is complicated by the lack of social cohesion in the community, and the lack of social capital in all but the most tightly knit family and kinship networks of community residents.
If we want to create communities that are strong and healthy, perhaps the first task is NOT to create health promotion or disease prevention interventions. Trying to target "at risk" individuals and individual risk behaviors has, in all too many cases, proven to be unsuccessful at changing the health profiles of these individuals, and more importantly, their communities. Perhaps the real challenge is to create the social capital and the collective efficacy as the foundation upon which successful, community-wide programs are based.
In this lecture, Dr. Fullilove will explore the opportunities available through a return to the roots of old-fashioned community organizing. Through community organizing, we can construct interventions out of those efforts to develop solid, cohesive groups who can work effectively to deal with community issues. Organizing for collective efficacy should be a watchword for our efforts to eliminate health disparities.