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Available scholarship demonstrates that leaders in the healthcare sector must demonstrate adequate capacity in understanding the dynamics and complexities involved in healthcare management not only in health facilities but also in community settings (Busari, 2012).
Drawing from this elaboration, the leadership role of the Health Department can be described in terms of developing and implementing strategies aimed at improving the health of community members, developing a strategic plan for the long-term prevention of obesity and related complications, designing the framework for a new school and work-based culture that stresses the importance of physical exercises, creating strategies to enhance service delivery at the hospital and minimize waste, and facilitating education and awareness campaigns on obesity. In assessment, it is evident that the Health Department had failed in its leadership role, leading to the proliferation of obesity and associated challenges.
The Health Department has in the past 15 years not been responsive in fulfilling the above responsibilities as demonstrated by the increased prevalence of obesity and related diseases, lack of physical exercise programs in schools and workplaces, lack of knowledge among community members on how to deal with the disease, as well as the many challenges facing the local community hospital.
However, the Health Department has in the recent past demonstrated sustained effort in dealing with these challenges by meeting with stakeholders to develop action plans for the community. The reported lack of responsiveness may have been triggered by barriers to effective leadership, particularly in terms of lack of the Health Department’s ability to fulfill its oversight and supervisory role within the community, lack of stakeholders’ competence and engagement, as well as the inability of the Health Department to influence the decisions affecting the community (Fealy et al., 2011; Johnson, 2013).
Community SWOT Analysis
- Strengths. The strengths of the community include the availability of primary and secondary/high schools within the area, availability of a health facility, cooperation among community members, as well as the presence of an active business community.
- Weaknesses. The weaknesses include high prevalence of obesity and related complications, lack of knowledge on how to deal with obesity, a small population of approximately 14,000 residents, lack of funds to run physical education programs in schools, as well as the failure of the hospital’s payment system.
- Opportunities. The leaders resolved to come together to develop an action plan and the availability of grant funding to address some of the challenges represent some of the opportunities for the community.
- Threats. The community’s threats include skyrocketing healthcare costs, the dominance of one health insurance company, the adverse economic impact on the local hospital due to the skyrocketing healthcare costs and burdens, sedentary work that inhibits physical exercise, as well as high incidence of serious diseases due to obesity.
Other goals that may form part of the community’s long-term strategic plan include
- introduction of competition in the provision of health insurance,
- reinforcement of healthy eating habits through education and awareness campaigns,
- initiation of various leisure activities to substantially reduce screen time,
- establishment and reinforcement of cultural norms that enhance normal weight development and counteract habits and behaviors that lead to overweight.
Lastly, some performance measures that may be used for assessing process and outcomes include increasing the number of adults and children with health insurance, reducing obesity-related hospitalizations within the community by providing access to high quality primary and preventive care, minimizing the percentage of adults and children who are obese, as well as limiting advertisements of less healthy foods and beverages (Keener, Goodman, Lowry, Zaro, & Kettel-Khan, 2009).
It is evident that the community described in the case study has many health issues, particularly when assessed using the prism of the high incidences of obesity and associated complications. Social marketing can be used to address some of these issues by virtue of the fact that behavioral change is required if the health challenges are to be addressed. Social marketing has been described in the literature as “the use of marketing principles to influence human behavior in order to improve health or benefit society” (Turning Point, n.d., p. 4). The principles of social marketing, according to Late (2004), include the audience, action, exchange, competition, and the four Ps of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion).
In the case study, stakeholders can begin by understanding their target audience in terms of knowing their capacity or propensity to engage in physical exercises or to eat healthier diets. Afterward, the relevant stakeholders can implement some actions that may be of immense importance in addressing the high prevalence of obesity and associated complications within the community. Such actions may include heightening awareness on the need to engage in physical exercise programs, strengthening the knowledge of community members with regard to the causes and consequences of obesity, and implementing strategies aimed at shifting the attitudes of community members with regard to healthy eating habits.
Additionally, stakeholders need to implement new strategies that could be exchanged with the old ways of doing things, particularly within the context of assisting community members to embrace an effective physical exercise regimen and healthy eating habits.
The above strategies need to be exposed to the community members in a way that will substantially reduce any form of competition. This may be achieved by underscoring the need to change behavior, reinforcing the benefits that may arise as a result of such behavioral change (product), and assuring community members that they stand to lose nothing by making the behavioral shifts (price). The knowledge on where (place) community members should access information on physical exercises and change of diet must be availed, not mentioning that stakeholders should deploy effective communication messages and use appropriate channels to reach a wider audience (promotion).
The level of community engagement shown in the case is high due to the fact that the role of community members in proposing and/or shaping policy dialogue on how to address the problem of obesity is evident. Indeed, there is a focused synchronization of collaboration efforts between all interested stakeholders, namely the local hospital, director of the local Health Department, concerned residents, schools, as well as representatives of the local business and health care communities.
However, more community engagement is needed particularly from the affected residents in order to ensure that the solutions and recommendations agreed upon will be acceptable across the board. High-level community engagement not only ensures that stakeholders work together and support each other in developing effective interventions to deal with the various health challenges affecting the community but also facilitates a scenario where partners are empowered to engage the local populations in the decision-making process (Bacon; 2012; Johnson, 2013).
Drawing from this exposition, leading stakeholders can decide to conduct a baseline survey with the view to developing a comprehensive understanding of the health needs and challenges of the local community. A deeper understanding of the health needs and challenges, in my view, can only optimize the success of current and future collaborative attempts being witnessed in the community.
Bacon, J. (2012). The art of community: Building the new age of participation. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
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Busari, J.O. (2012). Management and leadership development in healthcare and the challenges facing physician managers in clinical practice. International Journal of Clinical Leadership, 17(4), 211-216.
Fealy, G.M., McNamara, M.S., Casey, M., Geraghty, R., Butler, M., Halligan, P…Johnson, M. (2011). Barriers to clinical leadership development: Findings from a national survey. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 20(4), 2023-2032.
Johnson, J.A. (2013). Introduction to public health organizations, management, and policy. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning.
Keener, D., Goodman, K., Lowry, A., Zaro, S., & Kettel-Khan, L. (2009). Recommended strategies and measurements to prevent obesity in the United States: Implementation and measurement guide. Web.
Late, M. (2004). Health advocates using social marketing to change behaviors. Nation’s Health, 34(8), 5-5.
Turning Point. (n.d.). The basics of social marketing: How to use marketing to change behavior. Web.