How Community Development Can Be Beneficial to Public Health in Cameroon
Community development involves the coming together of community members to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems. This development project could be sponsored by an individual for the wellbeing of that community.
Community development and health are usually considered separate but the two go hand in glove to boost the wellbeing of a community. For example, public health experts will present maps with red colors to depict high prevalence of a disease in a community while community development experts will present maps showing overcrowded houses in that community. These overcrowded houses could be the cause of high prevalence of the disease presented by health experts. It is important for community development experts and public health experts to work together. This collaboration can reduce health expenditure by intervening in the social determinants of health, which research suggests are the primary drivers of health outcomes. It is therefore important for philanthropy and government to encourage health and community development partnerships.
Here are some practical daily approaches in community development that can have an impact on public health.
Housing is very important in both community development and health. Most Rural areas in Cameroon have poor housing plans. For example, houses are built without toilets; with these, people turn to use their surrounding environment to ease themselves. This can cause diseases which are transmitted by the fecal-oral route. Overcrowded houses, which is common in urban areas, is unhealthy for communities, such as the case of Ndokoti neighborhood in Douala.
It is important to make provisions for open space when building houses as overcrowding can facilitate the spread of certain infectious diseases like cholera, TB, acute respiratory infections, scabies etc.
2. Availability Of Clean Water
Clean water is very important in any community. Most rural communities in Cameroon fetch water from rivers for household chores. In areas where schistosomiasis is endemic, this is a route to infection. Households that cannot afford pipe-borne water could sink wells for water and use for their household chores. It is necessary for every community in those areas to have public taps where these people can fetch drinking water. This can also help prevent water-borne diseases. There is also need for community members to be educated on basic and cost-effective methods of water purification like boiling, filtration and chlorination.
3. Financial Education
It is important to provide financial education to all who are willing to learn. Educating people on how to minimize debts of all kinds will enable them to acquire an increased purchasing power. The extra money could go towards better home maintenance, more viable local businesses (provision stores, barbing saloons etc.), or other things that are paramount to maintaining a healthy community like proper feeding.
4. Availability Of Entertainment Hubs
Community members can contribute to improved mental health of their communities by constructing entertainment hubs. It may be difficult to have a patient suffering from depression to go across the city to watch a movie or play games. This would be easier if there existed an entertainment hub in their neighborhood. Entertainment such as gaming and relaxation parks can reduce stress and anxiety.
5. Domestic Violence Prevention
Domestic violence is common in Cameroon. It is necessary for the community members to make decisions on how to handle these cases and comfort the victims. Policy makers should implement strict legal actions against the abusers and put in place measures for psychological rehabilitation of survivors. This will positively impact the town by lowering the rates of abuse and loss of life.
6. Waste Management
A proper waste disposal and management cycle is an important community development project as it reduces adverse effects of waste on human health. One harmful effect of garbage is air pollution, which can cause various respiratory diseases and other adverse health effects. It is important to emphasize here that this project must not be implemented by the government, it could start from individuals. Cities like Douala suffer from poor waste management. Inhabitants, public transport and road users tend to dispose of waste irresponsibly on the streets and wherever, creating dirty and unhealthy environments. Proper waste disposal starts at an individual level. If everyone could respect proper ways to dispose of their trash, it will be beneficial to the community. With the availability of HYSACAM (a municipal waste disposal company), waste disposal systems should be made readily accessible for pick up by HYSACAM using available trash cans.
As far as community development is involved, a lot more still remains unexposed by this article. Community development is not exclusively reserved to the giant projects implemented by the government or philanthropy but also open to individual initiatives. Every individual is invited to engage in community development, participating particularly in activities that are constructive and mutually beneficial to community health.
Njoache Mildred, MSc
Njoache Mildred is a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services. Interests also include research, writing and disease surveillance. She graduated from the University of Buea with a Master’s degree in Epidemiology and Control of Infectious Diseases.