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  • Bruce Baker

CHEER’s Seven Steps to Community Change

CHEER will be implementing a “community health improvement process” in locations throughout Takoma Park and Long Branch. This is a process which has been shown to be an effective way to make change happen. It shares many of the same elements with the “MAP-IT” approach recommended in Healthy People 2020. The CHEER adaptation engages people in a process that follows seven steps:

1. Engage with others and determine what we want to see happen.

We can do this by talking to our friends and neighbors about our hopes and concerns. We want to share all perspectives at a community gathering, which leads to the second step where we will…

2. Decide what specific results we want to create together.

At the next gathering, we will synthesize and integrate our ideas to formulate a shared vision, identify shared values, and set common goals. The vision will reflect our core values, and the goals will reflect what is in our power to change. For example, we may value care for children, and may want to make dental care available to every child.

3. Decide how we will know what success will look like: an “Indicator”.

We will select a reliable indicator of progress. For example, we might find out how many kids in the community have been to the dentist in the last year. Increasing dental care would be an indicator for success.

4. Find out the story.

Knowing the indicator isn’t enough. We will also have to understand the story behind the number. For example, if many kids are not getting dental care, we need to find out why. Is dental care too expensive? Are dental services far away? Are dentists not available to treat kids? Etc.

5. Decide what we can do to make a difference.

Communities have many assets that can be used to address problems. Here we will analyze how other communities addressed similar issues and what resources are available to address the problems. We will encourage creativity to develop a specific plan that addresses the root causes of our issues.

6. Work with each other to make this happen.

Draw on our wealth of community members and other partnerships to implement a plan. Empower our community members to make progress for our community.

7. Determine if the action worked.

Did the plan meet its goals? Does the indicator show improvement? For example, after taking the action, conduct another count of the number of kids who have been to the dentist in the last year; what influenced them to get dental care? Were we successful?

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