Community Health: Definition & Care

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  • 0:03 What Is Community Health?
  • 1:06 History of Community Health
  • 2:16 Factors Affecting…
  • 3:12 Effective Practices
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Veronika Polozkova

Masters in International Health. Lesson development experience on different levels from basic alimentary school to academic master level. Languages: English, Dutch, Russian

Have you ever wondered what impact different members of your community with diverse characteristics can have on health? Or how community care is organized? Learn more about community health in this lesson.

What Is Community Health?

A community is a group of people who might have different characteristics but share geographical location, settings, goals, or social interest. Examples of communities include people living in the same town, members of a church, or members of a sports team. Community health is a field of public health that focuses on studying, protecting, or improving health within a community. It does not focus on a group of people with the same shared characteristics, like age or diagnosis, but on all people within a geographical location or involved in specific activity.

Community health covers a wide range of healthcare interventions, including health promotion, disease prevention, and treatment. It also involves management and administration of care. Community health workers (CHWs) are often frontline health professionals with knowledge of specific characteristics and developments of the community. They are often members of the community themselves and play an important role in the functioning of community care.

History of Community Health

The earliest recorded evidence of community health is from 25,000 BCE. Murals on the walls of Spanish caves show physical deformities. These murals tells us that someone noticed and documented differences in the physical state or appearance of community members. Later murals in China show a group of people digging a well for drinking, giving us evidence that the 21,000 BCE community members understood the importance of clean water for their health.

In the Middle Ages, many diseases and cures were considered to be spiritual, and sciences like medicine were thought to be evil. That could be the reason why so many communities suffered from diseases like plague and leprosy. In the 19th century, the focus on community health increased. A Commonwealth of Massachusetts paper by Lemuel Shattuck in 1850 outlined public health needs in the state, and the work of Dr. John Snow, who removed the handle of the drinking water pump on Brad Street in 1854 to fight the cholera epidemic, showed that community interventions are indeed very important.

Factors Affecting Community Health

There are several factors that can affect community health, including:

  • Physical factors like the geographical and environmental position of a community, which affect disease prevalence, community size (overcrowding), industrial development, and levels of pollution.

  • Socio-cultural factors like beliefs, norms and traditions, define attitudes toward health and influence practices that are either beneficial or harmful to health. Economic and political status of a community also affect the affordability and availability of care.

  • Community organization plays a role in the presence of healthcare options as well as the extent to which members know the priorities and participate in lobbying and promotion of community care.

  • In addition, individual behavior, or personal choices, such as the choice to get immunized or to recycle waste, also contribute to the well-being of the whole community.

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