Hazel Atuel on Community Competency

Hi!  My name is Hazel Atuel and I am the Research Program Director at the Comprehensive San Diego State University/UC San Diego Cancer Center Partnership. Today I will be sharing some hot tips and rad resources on community competency.

I am grateful to Dr. Bob Robinson, Associate Director for Health Equity of the Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (CDC, Ret), for sharing his Community Model to Eliminating Health Disparities. Dr. Robinson’s theoretical framework is quite comprehensive and I would like to highlight the various dimensions of community competency, one of the major components of the model, as they will serve us well in the work we do.

To illustrate the need for community competency, let me share one of Dr. Robinson’s stories. When a CDC-funded REACH program in a northeastern state conducted a study almost a decade ago, data collection involved recruiting Cambodian refugees to participate in the project. As the study progressed, reports from the field reflected almost nil success in engaging participants from this target population. Only after someone provided a cursory review of Cambodian history did the program leaders understood where the resistance stemmed from: Asking people to “participate in a study” was one of the strategies the Khmer Rouge used to entice people from the city to go to the rural areas that led to the killing fields.

Had the researchers done their historical homework prior to collecting the data, recruitment strategies would have been very different. How then do we move forward as community competent evaluators?

Hot Tip: A first step is to differentiate clearly between community competency and cultural competency as the two constructs are not synonymous to each other. While cultural competency focuses on the individual, the unit of analysis in community competency is the community or group.  Second, the primary constructs of community competency are history, culture, context, and geography, and the secondary constructs are language, literacy, positive and salient imagery, multigenerational appeal, and diversity (Robinson, 2005, pp. 339-340). I refer the reader to the Rad Resource for in-depth reading even though some of these constructs are self-explanatory. I think it wise to generate a community competence checklist so we can be better equipped as evaluators for programs that serve diverse communities.

RAD RESOURCE: Robinson, R.G. (2005).  Community Development Model for Public Health Applications: Overview of a Model to Eliminate Population Disparities. Health Promotion Practice, 6, 338-346.

Robinson, R., and Holliday, R. (2009). Tobacco-use and the Black Community: A Community-focused Public Health Model for Eliminating Population Disparities. In R. Braithwaite, S. Taylor, and H. Treadwell, H. (Eds.), Health Issues in the Black Community, Jossey Bass: CA (pp. 379 – 416).

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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