Community mobilization is a very sensitive exercise that requires participating individuals or groups of people to fully understand the characteristics of the community. In a bid to evaluate the obesity prevention strategies in Okaloosa, it is necessary to involve the community in the process because it helps them to understand their situation better and come up with strategies to address the prevailing gaps. This paper aims at highlighting community elements that could impede successful community mobilization and engagement; thereby, deterring the evaluation exercise.
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Other communities, for example, the Haitians, experience difficulties when communicating with the medical personnel. Residents of Okaloosa do not speak English as the first language; therefore, language barrier occurs especially when either one of the health care officers does not understand the local language that interferes with proper communication in English. When this is the case, dissemination of health messages also becomes a challenge.
The majority of the population was composed of the Whites at 81%, African Americans at 9%, Asians at 2.5% and other races made up the remaining 5%. Often, the marginalized populations: the blacks, and women, are deemed to live in deplorable conditions and are the main group that struggles with social and economic issues affecting optimal utilization of health care services. Therefore, being a black woman aggravates the situation.
The respondents indicated that the Okaloosa population is well-educated with a majority of the population having advanced degrees. This is a very important factor for community mobilizers because it means that a good rationale for executing the process is required. In addition, the messages to be communicated should be professional. Most of the individuals will be aware of what community mobilization entails; hence, any deviation from the norm might raise concerns.
The economic phenomenon in Okaloosa had significantly improved in comparison to other counties in Florida, according to the 2010 census (Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa, 2013). According to the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa carried out in 2011 but published in 2013, fewer people were living in poverty in Okaloosa than in Florida and the United States. Unfortunately, the situation has sporadically changed because the cost of living index as of March 2012 was 90.6, which is less than the average U.S. average at 100 (County Health Rankings, 2015). The drop in economic performance is associated with poor access to health information and unhealthy diets. In addition, people will not appreciate the interventions is their economic situation is bad.
The physical environment of Okaloosa County is ranked 61 out of 67 counties in Florida. The particulate matter of ambient Okaloosa is 12.8 in comparison to that of the average Florida particulate matter, 114, and the top performers in the U.S.: 9.5 (County Health Rankings, 2015). Saunders (2015) state that increased air pollution, particulate matter 2.5, is associated with low physical activity levels. However, more studies are required to verify this association. Under such circumstances, community mobilization and engagement become a real challenge because individuals, coupled with poor utilization of health care services, suffer from various respiratory health problems, and heart dysfunction (Saunders, 2015). The physical environment of populations living in deplorable conditions, for example, the black women, deem their environments unwalkable. As a result, physical inactivity is increased in this population (Okaloosa County Health Department, 2012).
The County Health Rankings (2015) indicate that most people in Okaloosa, in comparison to Florida, will drive even when short distances are involved. This is an indicator of low activity levels that thwart efforts to prevent and reduce obesity within the county. Information from City-Data.com: Food Environment Statistics (2010) indicate that Okaloosa has a high percentage of food restaurants in comparison to other counties in Florida. The high number of food restaurants encourages eating outside the house, and in addition, discourages cooking at home. Despite the fact that seafood is the main dish in these restaurants, when individuals eat outside and in the company of friends, they tend to eat more leading to positive energy balance, which leads to overweight and obesity. In addition, proximity to the market from most homes is less than a mile away, reducing engagement in physical activity. In addition, the high number of parks encourage family outing and with the many food outlets and snack shops, poor eating habits, associated with obesity, prevail.
Specific Subpopulation Aspects
Perception and Attitude
Okaloosa County Health Department (2012) highlights the characteristics of a healthy community based on the health beliefs of individuals in Okaloosa County as communism, strong and diversified economy, provision of affordable and easily accessible health care services, good infrastructure, and quality education. The same characteristics are mentioned as areas that should be addressed when working towards improving health and the quality of life in Okaloosa, apart from communism that is replaced by entertainment choices.
Commensurate with other populations in Florida, it is evident that health care access and availability is a great challenge for optimal delivery and use of health care services in the studied population of Okaloosa County and the general Florida community. Lack of health insurance is a main issue that prevents the attainment of optimal health (Rahil & Rice, 2010).
Reference to the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa (2013), the use of tobacco in Okaloosa was higher than in Florida and the U.S..; thus, contributing to the health disparity between Okaloosa and other communities. It is because of this high tobacco use that reducing tobacco use is among the strategies aimed at preventing obesity. Obesity reduction is part of an initiative aimed at embracing a healthy lifestyle. In addition, heavy drinking is another behavior that Health behavior outcomes of Okaloosa in comparison to other communities in Florida, and even the United States is a very good indicator of health status, and a good rationale for taking part in the evaluation efforts.
Taking part in the evaluation process requires time away from one’s daily activities. In Okaloosa, better education and increased per capita income means that people are busy indulging in activities deemed more economically beneficial than taking part in a community activity. This is a major challenge to the exercise because community participation is associated with successful evaluation; hence, better and feasible recommendations. The mobilizers will need to liaise with institutions and local authorities to treat the exercise as a campaign that should be embraced by everyone for the attainment of a healthy people that health professionals and departments are seeking to achieve.
Education is one element of the Okaloosa community that has been optimally utilized. As a result, the Okaloosa community could use this aspect to promote good health. Creating awareness about healthy living at an early stage via education is a strategy that could help individuals adopt healthy behaviors. Unfortunately, this will only gain importance during health promotion campaigns, for example, in the current obesity and healthy lifestyle promotion campaign.
Family Stability and Stress
These are great determinants of health, in addition to taking part in community activities. An unstable family is not able to gather resources for the benefit of the entire family. Instead, family resources are destroyed and squandered, and in the process, living in a healthy manner seems unachievable.
Community mobilizers can obtain information not available in literature to determine aspects of the population that could be attributed to obesity using ethnography. Ethnography enables researchers to study situations as they occur in the natural environment, in real time, to understand a culture better. In this case, mobilizers can live amidst a population whose health outcomes in relation to obesity are poor in comparison to other populations within the county.
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Mobilizers can engage the community members in in-depth interviews that will help to establish aspects not covered, to aid in better provision of intervention strategies. The in-depth interviews enable the mobilizers to have a one-on-one personal interaction with targeted community members. Upon creation of good rapport, subjects are more willing to give out information.
Utilization of Resources
Liaison with Community Leaders and Local Authorities
To begin with, this is an imperative initiative that could help reduce the occurrence of degenerative diseases by a great margin if supported adequately. As a result, and in accordance with the Florida Department of Health (2015), working with local institutions will help in utilizing local resources to achieve the intended outcome. The report by the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa (2013) indicates the use of the local education system and local health care skills from local residents to provide health care services.
Understanding a community is very important; otherwise, it becomes difficult to penetrate the communicate. Every community has its set of beliefs and practices, and it takes proper and feasible strategies to integrate novel knowledge and practices to a community. This research indicates that Okaloosa is different from other communities in Florida in various ways, and this is what makes it unique. Therefore, unique strategies are also required to involve the community, who are better equipped in solving their own problems.
County Health Rankings. (2015). Okaloosa (OL). Web.
Florida Department of Health. (2015). Okaloosa County Community Health Improvement Plan. Web.
Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County. (2013). Community Health Assessment. Web.
Food Environment Statistics for Okaloosa County, Florida. (2010). City-Data.com. Web.
Okaloosa County Health Department. (2012). What makes a healthy Okaloosa County: An assessment of community themes and strengths. Web.
Rahil, G., & Rice, C. (2010). Correlates of picuriste in a sample of health-seeking Haitian immigrants and adult children of immigrants in Miami-Dade County, Florida. American Journal of Public Health, 100 (Suppl 1), S140-S145.
Saunders, T. (2015). New study: High levels of air pollution associated with lower levels of physical activity. Obesity Panacea. Web.