Public Health Research

What it takes to engAGE in Community

Community-based participatory research is an emerging mechanism in public health research that’s used around the world to support people’s contributions to finding solutions that will work for them.

Deborah John

Deborah John looks at a community and sees its heart, its soul, its complex make up of people, places, services. She listens to the voices. She learns about needs. She empowers people. “It’s my passion,” says Deborah, OSU Extension facilitator of engAGE in Community and assistant professor of public health. “The goal is to create Clackamas County as an age-friendly place comprised of age-friendly communities,” she explains. “We want to assure that the people who have made this community their home are able to stay here as long as they wish.”

Deborah started last year by facilitating a county-wide forum to begin to identify the issues. More than 200 attended, using hand-held “clickers” to register their opinions about transportation, housing, social services, health care, education, open space, cultural opportunities, social isolation, and how community members receive information. Data gathering continues with community members actively involved in conducting face-to-face interviews, online and phone surveys, and community audits using Participatory Photo Mapping, a Geographic Information Systems photographic survey, to record features of the community that support or prohibit age-friendliness.

She uses a community-based participatory model, working with local residents to understand the factors that support or hinder opportunities to age successfully and actively. “We engage them from the beginning – they help us frame the questions, do the interviews – they are partners, not participants or ‘research subjects.’ They are looking at the issues that are relevant to them and finding solutions that they will use.” Once the data is gathered, the fun begins, according to Deborah. “We’ll have an engAGE Summit to share findings, then build coalitions of citizens and county, city, OSU, and Extension partners that can facilitate changes. The potential for community impact is huge – to make changes, right here, right now, on the ground.”

2 replies on “What it takes to engAGE in Community”

In reviewing the above paragraph about Engage Summit which I think is a super idea and program. I did noticed that the area of leisure pursuits, recreation services or opportunities were left out of the subjects explored. This is a major issue in our society and such a needed area to connect people together that to have it not identified leaves one to wonder why. One only have to look at the funds, budgets, and individual expenses spent on leisure to know the importance within our society. I would hope there would be a way of including it as a separate topic for future exploration. Let the fun begin Mike Watters OSU 62 Recreation Ad.

Thanks for your interest in engAGE in Community. While the area of leisure pursuits, particularly active leisure, is not addressed by name in the WHO model of age-friendly communities, outdoor spaces and the built envronment are one of the areas. Thus when community residents look for supports and barriers in their physical, social, and service environments, supports for leisure pursuits (or an absence of supports) do emerge as important components of age-friendliness!

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