Over the years, it has become more evident than ever before that improving health status of communities infact starts in domains that lie largely outside the hierarchical set-up of the health services. One such important start point should be the ‘Community’ itself. The current Public Health issues in India majorly include chronic diseases, Non-Communicable diseases, Maternal and Child Health affecting, disproportionately, the low-income and vulnerable populations and are influenced by the physical, social and economic environments in which they live. These are the complex health issues that can effectively be addressed by broadening the approaches and using a spectrum of strategies like mobilizing the communities, building their capacity and promoting community health. Community involvement is a continuum of organization, mobilization and involvement of the community in determining the extent to which the health services are in harmony with overall development and is one of the most important principles of ‘Health for All’ based on Primary Healthcare.
Community mobilization advances Healthcare to contribute to the development and execution of Primary Healthcare interventions in its broadest sense, encourages its sustainability through helping people to help themselves, promotes integration of Healthcare in accordance with community priorities in turn helps in bridging the gap between community and existing Healthcare services. Community mobilization refers to a set of approaches that can help to increase demand-driven, accessible, and high-quality Healthcare services by enabling communities to plan, carry out, and evaluate health initiatives according to their own health priorities.
Community involvement not only promotes consideration of the needs of specific populations but also leads to greater sustainability of solutions/interventions as communities get empowered and become capable of addressing their own needs. A number of studies show that a sense of ownership is crucial in building sustainability and community involvement would enhance this. The implementation of community mobilization strategy in the field requires that health professionals seek to understand the community, and also to be understood by it. The use of community health workers, the community support groups and the health volunteers is an appropriate strategy for mobilizing the community, while schools and Anganwadi centers, Self Help Groups and other community institutions are important community assets which can be used as entry points to the community. The implementation of community involvement strategy requires a conducive politico-administrative environment and commitment to make it thrive. It is necessary to train health staff to communicate with the community, and to encourage research in community mobilization. Increased levels of community involvement lead to an outcome of commitment and ownership within the community to take decisions about its affairs. The continuum of community mobilization, organization and involvement is the key to successful Healthcare interventions.
Community mobilization is a long-term investment which is of mutual benefit to Healthcare providers and policy makers on the one hand and to the community on the other leading to sustained support at all levels for better implementation for the program. Health is one of the most important parameters in determining quality of life and people are the most important assets in the fight to attain better health for themselves. The role of communities in the Public Health sector needs to be reviewed in order to further improve community management of health programs. Community mobilization and optimal involvement is basically about helping people to help themselves and thus transforming the Health ecosystem from bottom up.