Community Health Research Skills

What exactly is community health ? When does an illness that is suffered by an individual body become a matter of concern for the community ? How do we know that the solution to an illness is cannot be found through medicating or healing an individual body, but needs to be found at the community level ?

Dr. Anita Patil explored these questions over three hours with 25 women from different backgrounds –  people living in slums, people working with slum residents, community health staff of the government.

She began the workshop with a presentation of the work done by barefoot researchers in Kaula Bandar – a fifty year old slum on land belonging to the Port Trust in Mumbai. She drew out the causal mechanisms connecting hygiene, nutrition, health, physical and mental development and opportunities in life. Following the presentation, the participants were asked to work in small groups to enlist common ailments or hazards in their neighborhoods and analyse the causative factors in the environment.

The diversity among the participants was also its main strength. The main insight from the workshop was that the prevailing sociocultural and political environment strongly influenced the way in which illnesses were identified, prioritised and analysed as community or public health problems. Often, problems that were primarily caused by environmental factors were understood as personal or private problems needing solutions at the personal level. Some times, problems were not even articulated as deserving attention.

Overall, the workshop made us all realize the urgent need to revitalize community health work in Hyderabad.