An argument against the focus on Community Resilience in Public Health

ALLMARK, Peter, BHANBHRO, Sadiq and CHRISP, Tom (2014). An argument against the focus on Community Resilience in Public Health. BMC Public Health, 14, p. 62.

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Background - It has been suggested that Public Health professionals focus on community resilience in tackling chronic problems, such as poverty and deprivation; is this approach useful?

Discussion - Resilience is always i) of something ii) to something iii) to an endpoint, as in i) a rubber ball, ii) to a blunt force, iii) to its original shape. “Community resilience” might be: of a neighbourhood, to a flu pandemic, with the endpoint, to return to normality. In these two examples, the endpoint is as-you-were. This is unsuitable for some examples of resilience. A child that is resilient to an abusive upbringing has an endpoint of living a happy life despite that upbringing: this is an as-you-should-be endpoint. Similarly, a chronically deprived community cannot have the endpoint of returning to chronic deprivation: so what is its endpoint? Roughly, it is an as-you-should-be endpoint: to provide an environment for inhabitants to live well. Thus resilient communities will be those that do this in the face of challenges. How can they be identified?

One method uses statistical outliers, neighbourhoods that do better than would be expected on a range of outcomes given a range of stressors. This method tells us that a neighbourhood is resilient but not why it is. In response, a number of researchers have attributed characteristics to resilient communities; however, these generally fail to distinguish characteristics of a good community from those of a resilient one. Making this distinction is difficult and we have not seen it successfully done; more importantly, it is arguably unnecessary.

There already exist approaches in Public Health to assessing and developing communities faced with chronic problems, typically tied to notions such as Social Capital. Communityresilience to chronic problems, if it makes sense at all, is likely to be a property that emerges from the various assets in a community such as human capital, built capital and natural capital.

Summary - Public Health professionals working with deprived neighbourhoods would be better to focus on what neighbourhoods have or could develop as social capital for living well, rather than on the vague and tangential notion of community resilience.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Centre for Health and Social Care Research
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Page Range: p. 62
Depositing User: Peter Allmark
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2014 12:15
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 06:09

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