In a recent study published in PLOS One, researchers investigate the factors that community members prioritize for their well-being and how policymakers can incorporate them to promote community engagement and overall community health.
Study: Towards a community-driven definition of community well-being: A qualitative study of residents. Image Credit: manpeppe / Shutterstock.com
Can community health affect personal and social well-being?
Community well-being has been formally defined as a framework encapsulating the environmental, economic, social, political, spiritual, and cultural domains that shape the goals and priorities of any community. Community-centric research aims to identify or develop objective indicators of community well-being.
A community’s amenities, services, and social resources are rapidly being formulated into discrete constructs comprising aspects of social, political, economic, cultural, and political factors associated with individuals living within that community. In turn, these constructs are used as metrics to evaluate residents’ satisfaction.
An encouraging growing consensus among researchers is that evaluation and assessment metrics should be conceived as a collaborative effort between experts and members of the community. A growing body of evidence suggests that every community is unique and, as a result, no metric or policy can suit all communities.
Evidence from social distancing measures employed during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019) pandemic indicates that residents of communities actively promoting engagement presented better compliance with COVID-19 restrictions while still maintaining better mental health outcomes as compared to communities where crosstalk between residents and policymakers was minimal.
Therefore, it is evident that understanding the wants and needs of a community is essential in measuring resident satisfaction, as well as a prerequisite before the conceptualization of policies aimed at promoting community well-being.
About the study
In the present study, researchers used semi-structured group interviews in tandem with thematic analyses to elucidate the critical perspectives and themes associated with community well-being.
The study cohort comprised focus groups from four distinct communities across the Canadian province of Ontario. These included communities within Toronto, Greater Sudbury, the Regional Municipality of Peel, and Thunder Bay.
Adult volunteers over the age of 18 were invited for screening and eligibility confirmation between May and July 2022. During screening, data pertaining to demographics was collected and participants were informed about the technical aspects of the study. The Community Well-being Survey, an online survey employing the cross-sectional study methodology, was used for screening.
Selected participants were cherry-picked to maximize diversity in the final study cohorts. Care was taken to ensure that at least 50% of the final cohorts comprised women and included representation for all racial groups, including Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Variations in age, education, and economic factors were further represented.
The focus group interview comprised three or four participants for each cohort, during which a two-hour-long semi-structured interview focusing on community perceptions regarding four prespecified community well-being domains, including social, environmental, physical, and political domains, was conducted. Participants were queried on both individual and intersubjective experiences.
The NVivo 12 code generation tool was used for thematic analyses. Both descriptive and interpretative methods were used in qualitative data generation.
The present study identified four major themes of community well-being across the assessed communities. The first pertained to the sense of community belonging, which was significantly associated with shared spaces, support, routines, and identities. Identities primarily corresponded to age and social responsibilities.
While ‘groupism’ fostered community participation and a sense of belonging, respondents recognized the demerits of excessive groupism, resulting in the marginalization of outliers and the formation of ‘siloed communities.’
The second theme relates to the amenities and social contexts which promote community development. Amenities, including places of worship, grocery stores, recreation centers, health care facilities, and public greenspaces within the community’s geographic confines, were essential requirements for resident satisfaction. The accessibility of residents to these amenities, specifically availability, affordability, proximity, and physical access, were key to a community thriving.
Almost all respondents felt that effective policy and community decision-making must be informed by community residents rather than being entirely in the purview of policymakers. Furthermore, equal representation of all members of the community, irrespective of cultural, racial, or financial background, was emphasized.
These four forms a distinct yet underlying factor of all pieces. To this end, community well-being relies on the equal and non-marginalized opportunity for participation and engagement of all residents.
Flourishing should not be a privilege”.
In the present study, researchers conducted extended semi-structured interviews with focal representatives from four communities across Ontario, Canada. Their subsequent qualitative analyses revealed four themes broadly encompassing culture, politics, social connection, amenities, inclusive decision-making, and equity.
Notably, marginalization based mainly on financial stability and race, as well as a communication breakdown between residents and policymakers, were identified as the key barriers preventing community growth and citizen satisfaction.
As local governments gain interest in understanding the well-being of their communities, such efforts should recognize community residents as experts on their own needs and value their essential role in building communities that support better lives.”
- Michalski, C., Ragunathan, A., Foster, A., et al. (2023). Towards a community-driven definition of community well-being: A qualitative study of residents. PLOS ONE 18(11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0294721