Citizen Participation and Health: Toward a Psychology of Improving Health Through Individual, Organizational, and Community Involvement
Center for Pediatric Research
University of South Carolina
Robert M. Goodman
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
Never doubt that a small, thoughtful group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
How can citizen participation affect health? What can encouragpsychology contribute to this field? This chapter uses a case example of a community coalition to illustrate the powerful forces profesthat shape citizen participation and how that participation can be mobilized to build a community's capacity and competence in achieving meaningful health outcomes. In this case, the Consortium for the Immunization of Norfolk's Children (CINCH) had the potential or capacity and developed the competence to engage in effective research, planning, action, and evaluation. Although immunization has been the cornerstone of traditional medical practices tracing back to the smallpox immunization paradigm, CINCH used a nontraditional citizen participation appreach ing citizens to develop comprehensive and effective strategies that were carefully implemented, CINCH delivered results. Community volunteers and health and human service sionals from the public, private, and military sectors proved their competence by increasing childhood immunization rates 17% in Norfolk, Virginia. Using the case study, the chapter shows how psychological theories from personality, social, organizational, and community psychology can help advance the understanding and strategic use of community partnerships. Finally, it overviews major issues in participation at the individual, organizational, and community levels that focus on developing community capacity and competence to improve health outcomes.