Meredith Minkler: Community Organizing and Community Building for Health (2005)

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  • BOOK REVIEW

    Meredith Minkler: Community Organizing and CommunityBuilding for Health (2005)

    Scott D. Rhodes

    Published online: 5 December 2008

    Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

    As editor, Dr. Meredith Minkler continues her important

    contributions to the field of public health education with

    the second edition of Community Organizing and Com-

    munity Building for Health. Published in 2005 and in its

    third printing, this edition includes a variety of contribu-

    tors, each of whom is well known for his or her expertise in

    community organizing and community building for health.

    The volume focuses on (1) development and dissemination

    of innovative best processes (as opposed to best prac-

    tices) to assist communities in using their own voices to

    define and elevate health concerns and (2) community

    mobilization through broad, strategic partnerships among

    community members as well as with representatives of

    community-based organizations, health departments, and

    academic research institutions. This book is a key resource

    for professionals in community health promotion, health

    planning, social work, and other fields that apply asset-

    based approaches to community health promotion and

    disease prevention.

    Initially Minkler concisely outlines the historical back-

    ground and disciplinary foundations of community

    organizing and community building for health (COCB for

    the purpose of this review). She describes various change

    models of community organizing including locality

    development, social planning, and the social action models

    as well as application and modification of these models.

    The concepts or constructs associated with COCB are

    also defined, including empowerment, critical conscious-

    ness, community capacity, social capital, issue selection,

    participation and relevance. The models and concepts

    provide a foundation for community members, practitio-

    ners, and researchers who seek to link COCB to an

    established framework.

    Part II explores the inherent challenges in COCB as a

    formalized process by examining (1) philosophical and

    practical challenges of professionalizing COCB for

    health; (2) effective use of media for advocacy; (3) iden-

    tification and reconciliation of conflicting loyalties; (4)

    cross-cultural challenges, particularly around issues of

    racism, privilege, and power; (5) assurance of genuine

    rather than token community participation; and (6) the role

    of securing resources to initiate, nurture, and sustain COCB

    efforts. The contributors also encourage practitioners to

    question whose common good is being served by the

    organizing effort and warn of potential unanticipated con-

    sequences of organizing. Health educators and others

    promoting COCB for change are advised to engage in

    frequent, thoughtful, and ethical reflection.

    Communities are not infallible, and as I have witnessed in

    community organizing and capacity building research in

    North Carolina, community members and members of

    community-based partnerships may have strongly held

    prejudices about one another. For example, some community

    partners within a now defunct multiracial, multiethnic mens

    S. D. Rhodes (&)Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy, Division

    of Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School

    of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem,

    NC 27157-1063, USA

    e-mail: srhodes@wfubmc.edu

    S. D. Rhodes

    Section on Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal

    Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical

    Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1063, USA

    S. D. Rhodes

    Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, Wake Forest

    University School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard,

    Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1063, USA

    123

    J Immigrant Minority Health (2009) 11:334335

    DOI 10.1007/s10903-008-9214-7

  • community organizing health partnership with the Univer-

    sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill advocated against the

    priorities expressed by Latino partnership members. Some

    community partners expressed negative sentiments towards

    Latino community members whom they perceived as

    undocumented and thus unwelcome. Furthermore,

    stereotypes about and stigma surrounding HIV trumped

    undeniable community needs that would have warranted

    some level of prioritization of HIV prevention organizing

    within the African American community. Some African

    American members of the health partnership saw HIV as a

    gay disease contracted by sinners. This volume can

    provide support to professionals who are challenged to effect

    change through COCB in a manner that not only reflects the

    priorities of the community but is also consistent with social

    justice: there should be little tolerance of prejudice or bias.

    Part III outlines processes for identifying and defining

    communities and assessing priorities and resources. Con-

    tributors propose criteria for selecting and refining an issue

    of focus and a process for cutting the issue or translating

    goals and objectives into prioritized bite-sized steps to

    move the effort forward. Without this practical and sys-

    tematic guide, the effort can be daunting. This section also

    offers examples of COCB within and among diverse

    communities. While recognizing COCB efforts among and

    with people with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and

    transgendered people, among others, the book specifically

    focuses on experiences among and with women of color

    and senior populations. An important take home mes-

    sage is that models of COCB must be flexible. The lived

    experiences and realities of diverse and vulnerable groups

    often differ from those groups that initially developed

    COCB models.

    Because community coalitions have emerged as an

    approach to address complex public health issues, Part VI

    addresses roles coalitions play in change and the linkages

    between coalitions and COCB. Contributors outline a

    conceptual model with key characteristics of coalitions,

    including leadership and decision-making processes,

    communication patterns, and target activities. Contributors

    later outline alternative forms of COCB, including pro-

    moting consciousness rising, critical thinking and dialogue

    through the arts and internet. Given the need for new ways

    to reach diverse communities and support them in gener-

    ating knowledge and mobilizing, such creativity seems

    particularly important. The ways that undocumented Latino

    adolescent immigrants, for example, discover their voices

    and are heard are very different from processes in other

    communities.

    Contributors also describe participatory and empower-

    ing evaluation through COCB that not only builds

    community capacity but also has the potential to develop

    new ways of measuring and capturing change. Recog-

    nizing that policy advocacy remains a neglected

    component of most health promotion and disease preven-

    tion efforts, contributors offer guidance through examples

    and frameworks that demystify the process. A thorough set

    of appendices provides resources for both the practitioner

    and researcher. For example, Appendix 1 provides guid-

    ance for early community assessment using an effective

    (and, unfortunately to date an obscure) technique known as

    action-oriented community diagnosis.

    Community Organizing and Community Building for

    Health, second edition, is a powerful tool for those who are

    working shoulder to shoulder with communities to effect

    change. It is accessible to multiple audiences and moves

    the readerand learnerfrom historical foundations and

    models of community organizing and community building

    to real-world applications. It provides step-by-step guid-

    ance in the practice of community organizing and

    community building and offers concrete tools to jumpstart

    the process. The usefulness of this book cannot be under-

    estimated for all of us working for change within

    communities.

    J Immigrant Minority Health (2009) 11:334335 335

    123

    Meredith Minkler: Community Organizing and Community Building for Health (2005)

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