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date: 30 June 2022

Community Empowerment and Health Equitylocked

Community Empowerment and Health Equitylocked

  • Jennie PopayJennie PopayLancaster University, Division of Health Research

Summary

Empowerment features prominently in public health and health promotion policy and practice aimed at improving the social determinants of health that impact communities and groups that are experiencing disadvantage and discrimination. This raises two important questions. How should empowerment be understood from the perspective of health and health equity and how can public health practitioners support empowerment for greater health equity?

Many contemporary definitions link empowerment to improvements in individual self-care and/or the adoption of “healthier” lifestyles. In contrast, from a health equity perspective community empowerment is understood as sociopolitical processes that engage with power dynamics and result in people bearing the brunt of social injustice exercising greater collective control over decisions and actions that impact their lives and health. There is growing evidence that increased collective control at the population level is associated with improved social determinants of health and population health outcomes. But alongside this, there is also evidence that many contemporary community interventions are not “empowering” for the people targeted and may actually be having negative impacts. To achieve more positive outcomes, existing frameworks need to be used to recenter power in the design, implementation, and evaluation of local community initiatives in the health field. In addition, health professionals and agencies must act to remove barriers to the empowerment of disadvantaged communities and groups. They can do this by taking experiential knowledge more seriously, by challenging processes that stigmatize disadvantaged groups, and by developing sustainable spaces for the authentic participation of lay communities of interest and place in decisions that have an impact on their lives.

Subjects

  • Global Health

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