Treading the Line: Community vs. Individuals

Categories: Public Health, SBHCs, Uncategorized, Wellness Centers

Imagine you are several thousand feet above the ground and you are walking on a tightrope. If you fall too far left you land into the calming ocean, and if you teeter too far right you fall onto the sandy beach. But, if you are able to balance yourself on the line and stay right in the middle, you are able to enjoy the aesthetics of both of sides. In Public Health this is how you tread the line; however, in this case the ocean and the beach are the community and the individuals, respectively.  I have learned that the answer is not as defined as walking the line, yet I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to the underlying concern through my experience at The L.A. Trust. Through my story, I hope to inspire others to discover how they can ignite change and transform communities.

We have the opportunity as interns to get together and talk about different populations and how we could better serve them.  While listening to a discussion, I was plagued by a beckoning question. As a person who is familiar with the semantics of public health, how can I address the community without neglecting to recognize needs of the individual? In this particular discussion, I realized that treading the line may be difficult but it’s imperative. The task requires constantly asking oneself the following question with every interaction, “What is the social context?” For example, I was able to visit the Locke Wellness Center, and one of the employees expressed to us about the increase in refugee El Salvadorian families that come and have to assimilate to American culture. Their needs are different than those who are born and raised in the United States. As a result of their social context — they see the world differently due to their experiences. As an addition to the question posed earlier I wanted to know how do I engage an individual in order to improve the community’s health outcome?

Though I do not have an answer, so far I have learned that in the realm of school-based health systems this seems to be true. Yes, assessing the community as a whole is a great overall indicator, but is incomplete without the act of addressing the needs of the individual. It is the individual that harnesses the power of influence among their peers, family, and have the pertinent role of contributing to the well being of their community by improving their health. Our role is to preserve the identity of the community and its members. For me, I know is one of the greatest tightropes to keep my balance on, yet pertinent to master.

Nalani Livingstone recently graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in Public Health.  She is a fellow with the Centers for Disease Control’s Maternal Child Health Careers/ Research Initiatives for Student Enhancement (MCHC/RISE-UP) program.  She is interning with The L.A. Trust and support fund development activities.



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