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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Connecting the Dots between Individuals, Community Organizations and Community Health Resilience

Author: Pamela Barnes, MA, Team Lead, National Strategic Engagement, Division of Policy and Strategic Planning, ASPR and Julia Gin, BS, CHES, Jr. Management Analyst, GAPSI Contractor in support of National Strategic Engagement, Division of Policy and Strategic Planning, ASPR
Published Date: 11/7/2014 12:00:00 PM
Category: Public Health Preparedness;

It is hard to predict when a disaster will strike, how severe it will be, or exactly how it will impact a community’s health. But here’s something that we do know: Communities that are connected before a disaster strikes are more capable of safely dealing with that disaster; more flexible in their response to the diverse challenges it brings; and ultimately, better able to protect the health and safety of their members.

So, what does a connected community look like?

A connected community has diverse partnerships, high levels of trust and the ability to work together. All three of those things take time to develop, but once they are established, they can make the community better able to mobilize their networks and respond to or recover from a disaster. Ultimately, they can work together to reduce the impacts of the disaster and help protect people’s health and safety.

Daniel Aldrich, an associate professor of political science Purdue University, argues that social capital Exit Icon—formal and informal bonds that tie individuals together—can foster more effective long-term recovery. He has studied disasters and found that social capital and the trust, or lack thereof, between individuals and organizations in disaster-affected communities can help us understand why some communities are able to bounce back from an emergency event while others struggle with recovery.

Community connectedness can happen at many levels. Individuals can engage with their local civic organizations or just get to know their neighbors. Community organizations can work with each other and with state or local governments to plan on ways that they can help one another every day – and especially when disaster strikes.

Building these connections can be a challenge for many communities, but the benefits of creating a more connected community can include everything from healthier individuals and families, lives saved and communities that are more resilient in the face of a disaster. Ultimately, more connected communities contribute to our national health security.

This Veteran’s Day, as we honor service to our nation, we encourage you to think about ways that you can increase social connectedness as a way to serve your community. In particular, try to think about how community leaders and diverse stakeholders can join traditional disaster planning partners to work together to make their communities more prepared and resilient. Get involved and share your ideas on our IdeaScale collaboration community, Increasing Social Connectedness to Improve Community Resilience Exit Icon.


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