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Healthy Families and Healthy Communities: A Town Hall Project
The purpose of San José State University’s (SJSU) Town Hall Meeting Project was to assess the perceptions of low-income residents of a predominantly immigrant neighborhood regarding community health needs, assets and priorities. Participants included members of three neighborhood associations and a parent association, as well as clients of a nutrition program and a senior service center.
The neighborhood organizations asked a planning team, made up of staff and student members of the Center for Community Learning & Leadership and the community director of the service-learning collaborative CommUniverCity to engage residents in group discussion and to distribute surveys regarding their physical and mental health concerns.
A total of 178 people participated in town hall meetings, 111 of them completing open-ended questionnaires. The researchers discussed the responses to identify recurring primary themes, then quantified respondents’ references to each of the themes and located representative quotes.
The findings of the project have led to student-faculty-community partnerships around health-related research, grant development, and program planning. For example, the fact that obesity and associated health issues emerged as primary concerns in the community (cited by 69%) guided the efforts of SJSU faculty and students working with residents to plan and implement free community health fairs.
Similarly, 45 of 111 participants surveyed (41%) having noted that they knew someone who had experienced domestic violence provided a basis for supporting and expanding related programs in community centers that work with SJSU student volunteers.
As each community group receives the questionnaire reports, feedback is being gathered. Thus, the original study prompted further cooperation among the participants on meeting a number of community needs.
Elena Klaw, Psychology & Center for Community Learning and Leadership
San José State University
Jeanette Ramos, San José State University
Imelda Rodriguez, McKinley Neighborhood Center
Key words: immigrants, health/health education/health disparities, neighborhood associations, public dialogues/town hall meeting, obesity, domestic violence, community organizing/community building, survey research, qualitative methods, quantitative methods