The power of people coming together to work towards a common goal is the universal truth. In order to create change, communities have to discuss and identify the issues and goals, mobilize resources, and then develop effective strategies to reach the objectives they managed to set for themselves. With health disparities being an aggravating problem worldwide, initiatives to reduce or eliminate disparities and achieve health equity gain more public attention. It is more likely for health professionals and policymakers to develop sustainable solutions if they take a community-based approach, instead of intervening on an individual level (Thompson et al., 2016). Social action and empowerment, however, involve numerous systematic approaches and strategies, including community-based participatory research, co-learning, and planning purposeful action.
There is usually an imbalance of power within communities, which generates unequal relationships among diverse members of a certain group. In terms of health and health disparities, empowerment can lead to more positive health outcomes (Thompson et al., 2016). It develops opportunities for communities to get access to screening and treatment and obtain necessary health resources. Empowerment is crucial in fostering awareness about health disparities and taboo health conditions such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV/AIDS, and eating disorders. Strategical social planning might help to address health disparity issues and affect local government representatives enough to lead to ultimate policy adoption.
First, it is essential to gain an understanding of the community and its issues. More importantly, empowerment strategy should include the analysis of power relationships within the group. It would help to identify key individuals who make for the majority of decisions and form strong community networks around them. After outlining the distribution of power, it is essential to generate that power by identifying the groups responsible for current health-related policies and their future adoption. Another step to empower communities would be articulating the issues (for example, high risks of HIV/AIDS among transgender people or the growing rates of youth suicide) through interventions and discussions (Thompson et al., 2016). Although it is important to start initiatives at a local level, social action is less effective without eventual policy change. Therefore, community-based participatory research (statistics and evidence-based data) might be needed “to develop and maintain partnerships among key stakeholders (individuals, businesses, media, and others) at different levels to influence policies to improve health” (Thompson et al., 2016, p. 1427).
Professional roles of nurses require them to be a part of strategic efforts to empower those with health disparities by integrating health promotional and educational activities. Nurses are pioneers in the acceptance of new health-promotion practices and regulations. They are instrumental in community awareness regarding preventive healthcare and can “encourage, motivate, inform, and guide the public” both inside and outside the hospital (Fooladi, 2015, p. 328). Two key processes that the nursing professionals affect when it comes to community empowerment: articulating the issues and policymaking. First, they are ‘ambassadors’ of health awareness and hold enough authority for people to trust them. Second, nurses work in a community and see healthcare inequity firsthand, which gives them an opportunity to be the first to address health disparity problems to hospital executives as well as policymakers. Moreover, they can play an integral part in developing effective solutions and strategies to deal with the issues by giving their input on community healthcare needs. Nurses have an undeniable effect on public well-being and serve as the foundation of health empowerment efforts being instrumental in any healthcare program implementation.
Fooladi, M. M. (2015). The role of nurses in community awareness and preventive health. International Journal of Community Based Nursing and Midwifery, 3(4), pp. 328-329. Web.
Thompson, B., Molina, Y., Viswanath, K., Warnecke, R., & Prelip, M. L. (2016). Strategies to empower communities to reduce health disparities. Health Affairs (Millwood), 35(8), pp. 1424-1428. Web.