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An Overview of the Community Quality of Life Approach

A. Introduction

Health workers in Toronto recently carried out two community quality of life projects. The following is an overview of the approach. In #63.2 (Resources) there is information on where to access the final reports from these projects and obtain the How to Carry Out a Community Quality of Life Manual.

B. What is a Community Quality of Life Project?

A community quality of life project attempts to understand a community through the eyes of its members. It does so by developing and implementing a process by which community members consider aspects of their neighbourhoods and communities that either enhance or diminish their quality of life.

A community quality of life project can also examine how community members cope and manage and the kinds of services and programs that would enhance their well-being. The views of community

members can be supplemented with information provided by service deliverers, elected representatives, or others. These views are then combined the available objective information to provide a community portrait. The community portrait identifies community strengths to be protected and community needs that should be addressed.

C. Why Carry Out a Community Quality of Life Project?

1. One reason for undertaking a community quality of life project is for health or social services agencies to fulfil a mandate of identifying and striving to meet community needs.

2. Another reason is the gathering of information to inform the planning activities of institutions, for example, municipal governments, public health and health care authorities, and educational


3. A third reason is to gain an understanding of a community and its members that would provide a context for the development and provisions of community-relevant information and services.

4. A fourth reason is the gathering of information by community action groups to use in advocacy and political action. No doubt, other reasons for gathering information about communities from the perspective of community members could easily be imagined.

D. What are the Features of the Community Quality of Life Approach?

The process is based upon some very specific values and principles. These values and principles include a commitment to:

1) adhere to World Health Organization concepts of health and health promotion;

2) emphasize the social determinants of health and well-being;

3) respect the community and its members;

4) ground the inquiry in an approach that sees the world through the eyes of, and in the words of, community members.

E. What Does a Community Quality of Life Project Look Like?

A community quality of life project is collaborative and respectful of the community within which it takes place. It involves working closely with a community and its members.

It is sensitive to community members' needs and to the practical and political concern of the collaborating service agencies and providers.

It is explicitly concerned with improving the quality of life of members of the community.

A community quality of life project involves speaking directly to people who live within a community. Depending upon the form that a project takes, it will organize and implement group discussions, community forums, or individual interviews. The specific people spoken with depends on the purpose and focus of each project.

In addition to hearing from residents of a community, a community quality of life project also involves talking to others such as agency workers, elected representatives, and community leaders. The form

that these discussions take will vary, depending upon the project. Collecting this information provides a context for understanding community members' perceptions and allows for examination of areas of

convergence and divergence. Objective information about the community is used to provide a context for the project.

The findings from a community quality of life project will be in the form of written narratives or stories that contain the views and perceptions of those who live in, work in, or represent a community. These narratives will contain quotations from participants that allow the reader to understand the findings from the viewpoint of participants. The findings may be reported in a variety of ways.

Possibilities include:

- a Community Report, written for very wide distribution,

- a Conclusions Report that provides a summing-up of findings,

- while a Findings Report provides extensive details of the findings.

A Write-Ups document provides the narratives that resulted from each community quality of life information gathering session.

And finally, a community quality of life project is concerned with acting on findings and contributing to community action. Carrying out a community quality of life project is only the first step in working to

improve the quality of life of community members.

Please see 63.2 for available resources related to the project.

- submitted by Dennis Raphael,