Nandita Mathur from The HEART Movement spoke at our Public Health session at the MPGH Training Forum in Auckland. The HEART Movement champions a community-led approach to family violence prevention through building healthy relationships. HEART stands for Healthy Relationships In Tamaki and Nandita’s programme has received accolades for its long-term primary prevention focus. The Heart Movement is based upon the principles of ‘community mobilisation’ and Nandita believes this approach is applicable across all public health kaupapa.
Community mobilisation can be difficult to get your head around. Nandita challenged the group to think about a problem they wanted to solve, to create a vision which was a positive statement reflecting the problem, and then create a phased plan about how to achieve that vision over ten or more years.
She then asked us to stand up, put our hands behind our back and think about how we would achieve each of our plans without actually doing anything ourselves. Everything had to be achieved by supporting the community rather than doing it for them.
It was a powerful exercise. Having your hands almost literally tied behind your back focused the group on what supporting without doing feels like. The long timeframe helped to shift our thinking from a short-term, outcomes-driven mindset. We talked about community readiness to change as the key metric because, without this, any intervention would be futile.
Nandita gave us examples of where community mobilisation has been successful in the past. First she spoke about gender discrimination in education in India, her native country. In the beginning, she told us, villages wouldn’t let you through the gates to talk about girls’ education. Over time, they let you through the gate but wouldn’t let you into the home. Over time, they allowed you into their homes but wouldn’t let girls attend school. Now, girls in India can attend a university 25kms from home. Things are not perfect, but the change is significant. All because interventions occurred when the communities were ready to change.
Understanding the community comes first. There can be no opportunity to appreciate the community’s readiness to change if we do not first understand the community. Hāpai Te Hauora’s National Co-ordinator Prevention and Minimising Gambling Harm Rebecca Ruwhiu-Collins has had first-hand experience applying community mobilisation principles in the public health context. Rebecca is the founder of Vape2Save, a smoking cessation and financial capability programme. “The cornerstone of Vape2Save’s unprecedented success is the way it has especially empowered wahine Māori to become smokefree, often after years of trying unsuccessfully to quit, and the experience of that success which then inspires them to help others to quit” Rebecca told us “speaking with Nandita early in Vape2Save’s establishment dramatically changed my thinking and helped me to identify the levers for these individuals to make transformation and change. Our programme is founded on financial literacy principles which, along with smoking cessation through vaping, gave us the key levers to support change in our target group.” Nandita and Rebecca both support the view that a community mobilisation approach supports a long-term, sustainable change focus in the public health sector. They believe it would encourage providers to collaborate and work collectively, by focussing on creating ‘readiness’ in communities rather than relying on expensive and sometimes ineffective incentives. Although it has been proven to be a cost-effective approach, Nandita cautions those who might think it’s an easy win for the ‘do more with less’ imperative “The difference with a community mobilisation approach is that you need to be energised as a facilitator to make it work.” This means providers need to be careful about their workers’ wellbeing and engagement from employers is needed to ensure their kaimahi are fit to fully support the community in preparing for change. If these criteria are met, community mobilisation offers a powerful and effective approach to creating sustainable change in our communities.
For more information about The Heart Movement see here tiakimanatu.org/epanui/the-heart-movement
For more information about Vape2Save see here facebook.com/Vape2Save