What is a Healthy Community?

A healthy community is one where people have good physical and emotional health.  But this is more than just the absence of illness.  A healthy community promotes well-being and offers a high quality of life.  Healthy communities can be measured along five dimensions which contribute significantly to people’s ability to thrive.

Social Networks: A healthy community has strong social networks that offer mutual support opportunities, facilitates social exchange, and the sharing of skills, resources, and assets.

Physical Assets: A healthy community has physical assets, such as buildings, parks, commercial, and other public spaces that are safe, clean, and comfortable, and provide opportunities for interaction and exchange.  The physical assets of the community are aesthetically pleasing and offer the community a sense of identity.

Economic Opportunity: A healthy community provides a robust economic opportunity structure, that fosters innovation and allows all of its members to participate in the creation and production of goods and services that contributes positively to a healthy sustainable high quality of life.

Human Development: A healthy community provides individual community members with opportunities for personal growth and improvement.  Individuals will be able to gain knowledge, develop skills, talents, and abilities, including the ability to express themselves creatively.

Local Institutions: A healthy community has community based institutions that sustain, respect, and support each of the dimensions described above.

Communities become healthy in each dimension by operating through a process that brings together the best that all participants have to offer.  CHEER offers a four step process that helps do this.

  • First CHEER engages the full diversity of all members of the community in a common space to share and receive from each other on an equal basis in an open and welcoming environment.
  • Second CHEER engages the community in a process of visioning and goal setting, and selecting indicators which measure progress toward the goals that the community has chosen to fulfill the shared vision.
  • Third, CHEER assesses the gap between the vision and current reality in the community as measured by the indicators, observation, and research and analysis focused on issues of concern to the community.
  • Finally, CHEER creates positive outcomes by identifying actions and policies that community members, policy makers, service providers, and other stake holders can take to improve the quality of life in the community and facilitates action.

This process empowers people in a community to improve the quality of life for all of its members along all dimensions and in all the ways that are important to a healthy functioning community.

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