Wheeling Walks Training Manual

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Benefits of the Participatory Planning Approach

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BENEFITS OF THE PARTICIPATORY PLANNING APPROACH


The following information is designed to help you think about and appreciate the value of getting a group of diverse people together to address a common problem.

Most community organizing processes simply bring together a group of professionals to make decisions about a problem. Sometimes this works very well. However, more often than not, a more thoughtful approach would have led to better results. Participatory planning is an underutilized approach to system change. Conducted within a community context, it can be very successful in achieving a desired health goal.

The 12-week process called Community Health Participatory Planning provides a forum to collect, share, and take action on information; to discuss and reflect on personal, community, and societal health; and to plan for community health programming. The approach (as described in this workbook) provides a means for accessing resources that far exceed the vision of any individual or small group of professionals. The approach forges a true working partnership between health promotion specialists and community members, avoiding the imposition of an individual professional’s values on the community. Professionals are group participants like others in the community. They are a resource and they discover the many unknown resources that others in the community possess. The partnership, not just one or two individuals, is responsible for the work and can celebrate the success.

The overall format of this planning process makes it possible for participants to:

• develop group cohesiveness and trust,
• clarify personal and organizational health concerns,
• experience benefits of and barriers to living a healthy lifestyle,
• identify existing personnel and community health resources,
• provide meaningful input into the design and implementation of a health program,
• serve as health advocates within a community, and
• assist with formulating a strategy for a proposed health intervention.

WOW! If we could only guarantee all of this every time the process is used!

Well, we can’t, but we can assure practitioners who choose to use this approach that they will improve their chances of making a difference in the community in which they work. As we all know, positive personal health behaviors are difficult to implement and maintain within the policy and environmental constraints of today’s world. Likewise, community health professionals often experience burn out because they feel they cannot accomplish anything. They work hard on projects – sometimes the “wrong” projects, and may become misdirected by well-meaning community leaders. The CHPP process allows a group of community members to take the lead in deciding the priority behaviors to address in the community, and then, supported by community health staff, to plan, make decisions, develop strategies, and move ahead.

As a part of individual involvement and commitment to the CHPP process, those involved receive a basic health screening and review of their health status at the onset of the planning process. The screening can be as simple as completion of the Health Lifestyle
Questionnaire (See Appendix D) or more elaborate with measurements of height, weight, blood pressure, and blood lipids. Participants are given the individual results of their screening and the group discusses the general screening concepts and parameters. This information can assist an individual in making personal behavior changes and it often serves to motivate needed change. Consequently, participants are invited to make a personal commitment to change health behaviors while assisting with planning a community health program. Doing so gives participants a better understanding of the challenges of living a health lifestyle. (Read that sentence again, will you?) This concept completely defines why this process works and it also
distinguishes it from other participatory planning models.

When it all works in the best possible way (including luck and everyone’s work to inspire), at the conclusion of the CHPP process participants better understand the need to not only make some personal behavior changes but also the importance of working to change community policies and environments to be more compatible with good health and a healthy lifestyle. Involvement in the CHPP process does not force but rather motivates participants to draw upon their own personal resources and to respond positively to the challenges of planning and participating in community health programming. For example, the inclusion of key decision-makers from across the community has proven effective in helping to successfully implement recommendations. By creating an overall environment conducive to social and individual empowerment, the participatory planning process leads the individual and community
toward improved health.

It must again be emphasized, that in addressing personal risk factor reduction, CHPP participants experience firsthand community, society, and personal barriers to living a healthy lifestyle. As a result, planning for community change is informed by individual efforts toward health behavior change. The structure also provides a synergistic setting for critical insight and problem solving. It enables participants to identify and mobilize community resources to overcome barriers. When barriers are overcome, improved health can be achieved in an overall community.

The shared jubilation/frustration of personal success and failure contributes to group cohesion as well as adds to greater appreciation of the value of both personal and group support. Such direct involvement in the process helps to overcome individual and community resistance to change.

In short, the process works to mobilize the talents, energy, and insights of all members of the group. This participatory planning approach essentially mandates program ownership. People who have meaningful input, develop a commitment to the success of their program.

Exercise: Given your experience and what you have learned so far in this workbook, what are some of the pros and cons of the community health participatory planning approach?

Pros:
1. __________________________________________________________________

2. __________________________________________________________________

3. __________________________________________________________________

4. __________________________________________________________________

Cons:

1. __________________________________________________________________

2. __________________________________________________________________

3. __________________________________________________________________

4. __________________________________________________________________

How well do you think it would work in the community you identified on page 5? Record your thoughts below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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