Resources, relationships, and systems thinking should inform the way community health promotion is funded
journal contributionposted on 23.06.2022, 05:31 authored by S Kavanagh, Alan ShiellAlan Shiell, P Hawe, Kate GarveyKate Garvey
Public health agencies tasked with improving the health of communities are poorly supported by many ‘business-as-usual’ funding practices. It is commonplace to call for more funding for health promotion, but additional funding could do more harm than good if, at the same time, we do not critically examine the micro-processes that lead to health enablement–micro-processes that are instigated or amplified by funding. We are currently engaged in a university-and-policy research partnership to identify how funding mechanisms may better serve the practice of community-based health promotion. We propose three primary considerations to inform the way funds are used to enable community-based health promotion. The first is a broader understanding and legitimising of the ‘soft infrastructure’ or resources required to enhance a community’s capacity for change. The second is recognition of social relationships as key to increasing the availability and management of resources within communities. The third consideration understands communities to be complex systems and argues that funding models are needed to support the dynamic evolution of these systems. By neglecting these considerations, current funding practices may inadvertently privilege communities with pre-existing capacity for change, potentially perpetuating inequalities in health. To begin to address these issues, aspects of funding processes (e.g., stability, guidance, evaluation, and feedback requirements) could be designed to better support the flourishing of community practice. Above all, funders must recognise that they are actors in the health system and they, like other actors, should be reflexive and accountable for their actions.