Citizenship Health Initiatives
Vision & Mission
To strengthen and restore community value through knowing, respecting and acting upon the four pillars of Health Citizenship with the end goal of building increased happiness and better health with and for the collective.
What is Citizenship Health?
We know that over 70% of our health outcomes source from the Social Determinants of Health such as stress, childhood and adolescent development, social exclusion, unemployment, social support networks, addiction, availability of healthy food, availability of healthy transportation/active travel; and also, the social diversities that shape the health and well-being of those we love and work with and the communities we love.
Why do we believe Citizenship Health Important?
Well, to start, we believe in: Better Self-Management, Better Community Connection, The Ability to Address the Social Determinants of Health Individually and Collectively, The Utilization of Assets, Namely our Youth and Technology. Again, this is just a start.
Citizenship Health as a Solution
Citizenship Health (Weisblat, 2017) is the collaborative practice of people to effectively understand and address the social determinants of health (SDoH) in order to participate responsibly in building a culture of health for all. The four pillars of Citizenship Health can be seen in the diagram below. Citizen participation is a process which provides individuals and communities an opportunity to influence internal and external decisions for a person and their pathway and gain the support of the collective. Citizenship Health is operationalized by relating individual efforts to the larger well-being of the community. Active Citizenship Health begins and is grounded in our everyday lives by the choices we make minute to minute, and is bound to the anchors of our context in many ways. For this reason, SDoH are more important than traditionally defined mechanisms of improving health outcomes, and refocusing dollars on the SDoH will end in better economic and community-responsible driven healthcare systems.
Enacting Citizenship Health in our Community Today
Methods for encouraging youth participation in the future must be driven by youth interest. The Health Profession Affinity Community (HPAC) program empowers local youth to become community health entrepreneurs as they advance themselves toward higher education and ultimately to the health professions. They are encouraged to identify and act upon their health concerns in their communities, which are recognized as powerful and resourceful contexts for health and growth. They adopt a newfound role of healthcare champion in their community and they engage their community as a vital partner in the process. HPAC identifies public health concerns like obesity, type II diabetes, food insecurity, mental health and bullying, and develops grassroots programs with local assets to address them. Those programs include:
- Public service announcements about mental health and obesity filmed with mobile phones, edited on school-based computers, and distributed on YouTube,
- “Iron Chef” competitions situated in “food deserts” and using healthy food options available in and donated by local convenience stores serving these communities, and
- Near-peer mentoring programs to support students with and without disabilities to navigate the psychosocial stresses of middle school and the transition to high school.
Four Pillars of Citizenship Health
The Eco-System Matters Everyday
Health is an essential component of one’s security, and must be seen as a public good. Citizenship Health entails the same rights and responsibilities as any other type of citizenship. Individuals should expect to receive the health care they require, but at the same time they have a responsibility to themselves and to society to take their health care seriously. Each citizen has assets and is connected to the collective. Those whose basic physiological needs are not met may struggle to meet this goal.
Build & Value Contextual Existing Assets
Citizenship Health incorporates the assets of a community or organization as akin to the genetic traits of an individual. For an individual, the genetic make-up, if properly organized, supported and activated, allows a person to achieve their potential and maximize their health. Often institutions, communities, schools and organizations have tremendous assets that are unrealized and underutilized (Weinberg, 1999, Zula and Chermack, 2007).
While much time is spent on capacity building and creating opportunities for new development, much less effort is expended on leveraging assets to achieve needed ends. As a result, little consideration is given to the combination of existing non-economic assets across resource systems, and tremendous potential is lost. Citizenship Health posits that we must pay closer attention to the tremendous resources that exist within a community, which when realigned can be used to meet the needs of our present-day populations.
It is about Equity Not Just Equality
Citizenship Health requires understanding and empathizing with populations that are different from our own experiences. Health and well-being are greatly influenced by context; the relationships we have in our families and communities dictate how most information and awareness is transferred (Christakis). We must therefore think collectively how we can address the Social Determinants of Health that so greatly impact the welfare of our communities.
Personal Responsibility & Accountability
Individual self-interest and the narratives that exist within our communities have defined health care over the years in such a way that it is not often seen as a public good. On the supply side, health care workers have been trained in a reactionary manner (fiscal incentives for specific services rather than a preventative care model). On the demand side, consumers maintain an “emergency room” mentality, knowing that care will be waiting for them if they need it, not investing in a preventative approach. When put together, the two sides have ingrained an intergenerational view of right without responsibility and framed health as a commodity as opposed to a basic need.
Citizenship in this country is dependent on a shared vision that we all want to live in a safe place, contribute to society and enjoy a life-style that will allow us to pursue our interests, support our families and be productive members of society. The design of our health care system has embedded it as a good dependent on economic capital rather than as a Maslovian need
It is our responsibility to make the world a better place
Citizenship Health is about knowing that, at the end of the day, no matter who you are, or what you do, your actions matter to all of us. Understanding that not one doctor, one teacher, or one donor can alone change our world. Each of our actions builds the health of ourselves as well as others.
Gina Weisblat // Founder and Program Creator