BMC Public Health 2017 09 30;17(1):760. Epub 2017 Sep 30.
Mannheim Institute for Public Health, Social and Preventive Medicine, Heidelberg University, Ludolf-Krehl-Str. 7-11, D-68167, Mannheim, Germany.
Background: This conceptual paper aims to illustrate the ways in which communities are able to advance health improvements on a population level. Outcome measures may include increased physical activity and healthier eating habits in particular, as well as an improved health-related quality of life and social cohesion as more generic outcomes.
Main Body: The paper begins by asking initial questions: Why did previous health-specific interventions only show moderate effects on an individual level and mixed effects on a population level? What is the added value of a community-based public health perspective compared to the traditional biomedical perspective when it comes to prevention? Why are we living the way we are living? Why do we eat what we eat? Why do we move the way we move? Subsequently, we illustrate the broad spectrum of contextual interventions available to communities. These can have geographical and technological as well as economic, political, normative and attitude-specific dimensions. It is shown that communities have a strong influence on health-related contexts and decision-making of adults, adolescents and children. In addition contextual characteristics, effects, mediators, moderators and consequences relevant for health can differ greatly between age groups. Both small-scale settings and overarching sectors possess physical, economic, political and sociocultural characteristics that can be proactively influenced by community decision-makers in the sense of a "health in all policies"-strategy.
Short Conclusion: After presenting various interdisciplinary approaches to community-based health interventions, the manuscript closes with the following core message: Successful community-based health promotion strategies consist of multilevel - multicomponent interventions on the micro, meso and macro-level-environments.