Addressing Wellness and Building Community Coalitions
By Sarah Davis
A coalition of individuals and organizations committed to a common goal can be an effective vehicle to achieve community wellness. Coalitions harness the power of their member organizations and amplify individual voices. Additionally, the process of engaging in a coalition itself can support community wellness by honoring and valuing community voices, supporting a sense of agency, providing social and professional connection, and fostering collective power.
Coalitions are organized to address numerous challenges related to the seven dimensions of wellness, which include:
- Social or Emotional– coalitions addressing abuse or trauma, positive youth development, or culture and the arts.
- Spiritual– coalitions focusing on inter-faith alliances.
- Intellectual– groups focused on autism, early childhood education, college readiness, or parent-teacher associations.
- Physical– coalitions organized around neighborhood safety, healthy eating, active living, tobacco, alcohol, opioid, or other substance misuse.
- Environmental– groups advocating against environmental threats, or to support clean air or water, or address the lack of green space in a community.
- Financial– coalitions addressing poverty or homelessness; business or economic development associations; groups looking at neighborhood revitalization, zoning, property taxes, levies, or allocation of funding.
- Occupational– coalitions focused on workforce readiness, independent living, or workers’ rights.
Skilled coalitions honor the expertise and elevate the voices of those directly impacted by issues the coalition seeks to address. Doing so not only ensures that the coalition is seeking solutions that truly benefit and are supported by the community, but also serve to build power within the community. Through participation in the coalition, community members build their leadership and advocacy skills. Members are connected to each other and to professional networks beyond their community. They are part of something larger and experience “wins” for themselves and their community.