Unlocking community capabilities
The unlocking community capabilities theme systematically examines how communities can be active participants in the planning, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of their health system, by identifying and mobilising individual and collective capabilities in different social, political, and institutional environments.
Defining community capabilities
Communities are groups of people having common interests, resources, beliefs, needs, occupations or other social conditions that characterise the identity of members and affect their cohesiveness. FHS focuses on communities that live in a particular geographic area, but also examines other social characteristics of communities. The term ‘community capability’ encompasses key concepts of empowerment, mobilisation, social capital and capacity building.
- Developing reproducible ways of measuring community capabilities to understand the social relations and resources within and across communities, including the status, social relations and entitlements of disadvantaged populations.
- Developing reproducible ways of changing community capabilities as a process and outcome of health systems interventions by improving linkages, strengthening monitoring, securing resources, improving resilience, and changing social norms.
- Having robust measures of change in community capabilities and developing research methodologies to understand pathways for change in community capabilities and how they relate to changes in health systems.
Defining an appropriate model of health systems ethics relevant to long-term engagements with communities, especially in low-resource settings.
Recent FHS publications on 'unlocking community capabilities'
Health systems research is increasingly being conducted in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Such research should aim to reduce health disparities between and within countries as a matter of global justice. For such research to do so, ethical guidance that is consistent with egalitarian theories of social justice proposes it ought to (amongst other things) focus on worst-off countries and research populations. Yet who constitutes the worst-off is not well-defined.
Ghosh U, Bose S, Bramhachari R and Mandal S (2016) Expressing collective voices on children’s health: photovoice exploration with mothers of young children from the Indian Sundarbans, BMC Health Services Research, 16:1866, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-016-1866-8
The Indian Sundarbans is marked by inhospitable terrain and frequent climatic shocks which jointly hinder access to health care. Community members, and women in particular, have few means to communicate their concerns to local decision makers. Photovoice is one way in which communities can raise their local health challenges with decision makers. This study unlocks mothers’ voices on the determinants of their children’s health to inform local level decision-making on child health issues in the Indian Sundarbans.
Bhuiya A, Hanifi SMA and Hoque S (2016) Unlocking community capability through promotion of self-help for health: experience from Chakaria, Bangladesh, BMC Health Services Research, 16:1865, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-016-1865-9
People’s participation in health, enshrined in the 1978 Alma Ata declaration, seeks to tap into community capability for better health and empowerment. One mechanism to promote participation in health is through participatory action research (PAR) methods. Beginning in 1994, the Bangladeshi research organization ICDDR,B implemented a project “self-help for health,” to work with existing rural self-help organizations (SHOs). SHOs are organizations formed by villagers for their well-being through their own initiatives without external material help. This paper describes the project’s implementation, impact, and reflective learnings.
Ekirapa-Kiracho E, Namazzi G, Tetui M, Mutebi A, Waiswa P, Oo H, Peters DH and George AS (2016) Unlocking community capabilities for improving maternal and newborn health: participatory action research to improve birth preparedness, health facility access, and newborn care in rural Uganda, BMC Health Services Research, 16:1864, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-016-1864-x
Community capacities and resources must be harnessed to complement supply side initiatives addressing high maternal and neonatal mortality rates in Uganda. This paper reflects on gains, challenges and lessons learnt from working with communities to improve maternal and newborn health in rural Uganda.
Liu T, Hao X and Zhang Z (2016) Identifying community healthcare supports for the elderly and the factors affecting their aging care model preference: evidence from three districts of Beijing, BMC Health Services Research, 16:1863, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-016-1863-y
The Chinese tradition of filial piety, which prioritized family-based care for the elderly, is transitioning and elders can no longer necessarily rely on their children. The purpose of this study was to identify community support for the elderly, and analyze the factors that affect which model of old-age care elderly people dwelling in communities prefer.
Barman D and Vadrevu L (2016) How is perceived community cohesion and membership in community groups associated with children’s dietary adequacy in disadvantaged communities? A case of the Indian Sundarbans, BMC Health Services Research, 16:1862, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-016-1862-z
Membership in community groups and a sense of community cohesion may facilitate collective action in mobilizing resources towards better health outcomes. This paper explores the relationship of these factors, along with individual level socio-economic variables, to dietary adequacy among children below 6 years of age, a proximate determinant of child malnutrition.
Paina L, Vadrevu L, Hanifi SMMA, Akuze J, Rieder R, Chan KS and Peters DH (2016) What is the role of community capabilities for maternal health? An exploration of community capabilities as determinants to institutional deliveries in Bangladesh, India, and Uganda, BMC Health Services Research, 16:1861, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-016-1861-0
While community capabilities are recognized as important factors in developing resilient health systems and communities, appropriate metrics for these have not yet been developed. Furthermore, the role of community capabilities on access to maternal health services has been underexplored. In this paper, we summarize the development of a community capability score based on the Future Health System (FHS) project’s experience in Bangladesh, India, and Uganda, and, examine the role of community capabilities as determinants of institutional delivery in these three contexts.
George AS, Scott K, Sarriot E, Kanjilal B and Peters DH (2016) Unlocking community capabilities across health systems in low- and middle-income countries: lessons learned from research and reflective practice, BMC Health Services Research, 16:1859, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-016-1859-7
The right and responsibility of communities to participate in health service delivery was enshrined in the 1978 Alma Ata declaration and continues to feature centrally in health systems debates today. Communities are a vital part of people-centred health systems and their engagement is critical to realizing the diverse health targets prioritised by the Sustainable Development Goals and the commitments made to Universal Health Coverage. Community members’ intimate knowledge of local needs and adaptive capacities are essential in constructively harnessing global transformations related to epidemiological and demographic transitions, urbanization, migration, technological innovation and climate change. Effective community partnerships and governance processes that underpin community capability also strengthen local resilience, enabling communities to better manage shocks, sustain gains, and advocate for their needs through linkages to authorities and services. This is particularly important given how power relations mark broader contexts of resource scarcity and concentration, struggles related to social liberties and other types of ongoing conflicts.