The practice of community development approaches in heart health promotion
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There has been a recent shift in public health policy towards population-based approaches to the reduction of cardiovascular disease. This shift has been accompanied by a re-examination of strategies appropriate to the goal. Often, community development approaches, designed to affect socio-environmental change, are suggested as the most appropriate strategy for affecting community-wide change. Despite the fact that community development approaches have been used by several of the major community-based heart health initiatives, evidence of their use and usefulness remains sparse. This paper presents the findings of a qualitative study of the factors (i.e. community context, facilitators, barriers) affecting the use of community development approaches to heart health promotion in Ontario, Canada. Key informant interviews (n = 30) were conducted with stake-holders representing voluntary agencies, community health providers, boards of education and local coalitions in eight of the 42 health unit areas across Ontario. The qualitative analysis reveals (1) that the use of comprehensive community development approaches is limited and (2) that community agencies typically employ elements of community development approaches (e.g. community organization, community-based), often in combination and adapted to suit local conditions. The resulting landscape of community development approaches is characterized by a continuum of collaborative practices indicating that no one type of community approach is appropriate for all initiatives and in all communities. Therefore, from a programmatic perspective, it may not be realistic to advocate community development as the goal to which all communities should strive.
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