When mobilizing for health, it’s important to think locally.
Understanding community context can help you determine which strategies are most needed in your community and how best to adapt them. Community context across Wisconsin includes differences related to climate, culture, geography, natural resources, industry, and how rural or urban a community is.
For example, if you’re interested in implementing a health improvement strategy to change the built environment in your community, that environment will differ depending on community context. The built environment refers to the human-made spaces where people live, work, and play. On example of how the built environment differs in communities is illustrated by the rural-to-urban continuum.
Sparsely populated lands consisting of farms, woodlands, wetlands, and large regional parks. Roads often lack shoulders and sidewalks.
Low-density residential and commercial areas with large blocks sizes. Roads are often designed for cars as the primary users. Residential and commercial land uses are often separated.
High-density mix of residential and commercial activities that provides for retail offices, rowhouses, and apartments. Roads are often on a grid system with small block sizes with sidewalks.
Pedestrian and bike-friendly streets, convenient public transit, playgrounds, parks, and trails increase opportunities to be physically active. Access to community gardens, grocery stores, and other healthy food options encourage healthy eating. Adapting strategies for rural or urban environments or snowy northern Wisconsin winters will help tailor built environment strategies for success.
The diverse voices of community coalitions or grassroots organizing groups provide valuable community context. Action research or community outreach activities can also access local knowledge.
If you’re looking into the evidence supporting a strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that evidence, implementation timelines, and potential effects have been established from interventions implemented in other places. The impact of a strategy may be different when implemented in your community. You’ll want to balance evidence-based strategy information with local knowledge when planning and implementing.