Developing community capacity and improving health in African American communities

James M. Raczynski, Carol E. Cornell, Varena Stalker, Martha Phillips, Mark Dignan, Lea Vonne Pulley, Laura Leviton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Community-based programs have produced mixed results. Community capacity is thought to be a major determinant of program effectiveness. Thus, enhancing community capacity may increase the beneficial effects of existing programs and enhance future program effectiveness. This highlights the need to focus on understanding the components of capacity and the methods of enhancing capacity. Although we are just beginning to examine and understand key concepts, community capacity is probably influenced by both relatively nonmodifiable characteristics (such as demographic factors, institutional resources, and social structures) and relatively modifiable characteristics (such as knowledge, skills, and the ability and willingness of members and agencies to work collaboratively). In their relationships with community members and agencies, academicians and public health practitioners may help acquire categorical funding to enhance opportunities to build community capacity and their own capacity as well. The relationship between academicians/practitioners and community members/agencies probably is influenced by a host of characteristics which determine the degree to which capacity can be built. This paper discusses: The key components of capacity; the factors that influence building capacity through collaborations; a community health advisor (CHA) model which both builds on sociocultural aspects of African American culture and is consistent with methods for building community capacity; and how modifications to this model allow it to be compatible with categorically funded projects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-300
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of the Medical Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Grant U48/CCU409679, which provides core funding for the center and funding for “Peer Support Intervention for CVD Risk Among African American Women” through a cooperative agreement with the National Institutes of Health’s Women’s Health Initiative.


  • African American
  • Community capacity
  • Community-based
  • Disease prevention
  • Health promotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Developing community capacity and improving health in African American communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this