Community health refers to a specialized area of public health that focuses on the collective well-being of members living in a community. Besides sharing the same geographic region, these populations also have similar socioeconomic statuses, lifestyles, characteristics, and access to healthcare facilities. Gaining insights into these factors is crucial in designing strategies to improve the public’s well-being.
For example, populations from low-income communities are more prone to chronic illnesses like obesity and diabetes due to limited access to nutritious and fresh foods. Similarly, neighborhoods near a factory or industrial plant get exposed to chemicals in the air and water because of which they may develop certain diseases. Public health experts who specialize in community health programs aim to mitigate these issues and enhance a community’s health and fitness. One such profession is that of an applied behavior analyst.
Applied behavior analysts are experts in that field of science that studies human behavior and uses it to solve problems with personal and social implications. By employing various tools and techniques, they drive positive outcomes to improve environments and lifestyles. And although they can work in several industries, their role in healthcare holds special significance.
If you’re interested in pursuing this career, read on to learn the top six ways you can help improve community health as a behavior analyst.
Observe behavior in environments
Since the primary role of a behavior analyst is to improve behavior and influence positive change, they must first identify what to change and how.
They focus on studying observable events within various environments, such as communities and neighborhoods. Earning qualifications like a master of ABA online can provide you with a list of essential factors and behaviors you must observe in different settings. Since no health professional can succeed in driving constructive results unless they know where to make the necessary improvements, your role will be vital. You can evaluate, assess, and examine the subjects in their natural setting to ensure you get an accurate picture of the present situation.
Develop therapeutic plans
One of a behavior analyst’s most important job responsibilities is developing and reviewing therapeutic strategies. A basic treatment plan must define all the procedures, interventions, and goals to solve a particular health issue. More importantly, you can only use these after calculating them for success and ensuring their pros outweigh the cons by a significant margin.
A quality therapeutic strategy spans components from the expected outcome of an intervention and its likely effectiveness to potential legal concerns and issues. As a behavior analyst, you will design therapies based on what you have observed in a specific environment. Therefore, your interventions must be targeted and aimed to mitigate whatever the leading health concern is within a community. This direct approach is beneficial in addressing a community’s problems and subsequently improving the health of its population.
Besides helping highlight leading health concerns, observing populations can also help recognize the best and most effective strategies for carrying out an intervention. Behavior analysts understand the behaviors and attitudes of the people they’re working with very well.
They work to minimize the research-to-practice gap across several professions and fields and work with professionals of other disciplines to guide decision-making. In areas where evidence is strong, they act on it. However, if it’s only suggestive or weak, they either only consider it or build knowledge to support better decisions.
Once you’ve identified a community’s prevailing health issues and developed the necessary treatment plans, it’s time to implement them. Using the data you’ve gathered and your expertise, you can execute interventions to mitigate whatever issue arises in the community. Introducing an interference based on factual data improves its chances of success and prevents the loss of valuable resources.
Analyze trends to monitor changes
Although designing a treatment plan and implementing relevant interventions are critical for improving community health, they aren’t sufficient. Working towards improvement is a continual process that requires constant monitoring of trends to figure out the strategies that worked and those that didn’t.
When you develop specific therapeutics or control measures for a community, you must gather data to analyze their effectiveness. Compare your results from before employing these tactics to see if they made any significant difference or not. What you work out on paper isn’t always as efficient in reality due to various factors that may influence your outcomes.
For example, if you want to decrease the prevalence of obesity in a community, you may introduce awareness programs in schools or workplaces. However, upon analyzing your results, you notice the number of affected individuals remains the same. In this case, you can restrategize your plan and incorporate other approaches to achieve a more pragmatic result. If you fail to analyze or monitor trends, you won’t recognize any discrepancies in your treatments, and as a result, community health will see no improvements.
As a behavior analyst, you’ll have to design treatment plans and services for various health-related issues. You can implement these facilities and therapeutics in home-based settings or healthcare treatment centers. Regardless of the location, you can’t be at multiple places at once. And so, part of your job responsibility is to supervise teams that can oversee and carry out the necessary procedures. You must train each member of your team and ensure they can meet the objectives of a particular intervention.
You can simultaneously address a wider population and carry out interventions in multiple locations by supervising teams. For instance, one group can visit schools while another can go to a local community center to raise awareness of relevant health concerns.
Meeting with stakeholders
Stakeholders within a community health setting include residents, the local government, social groups, school administrators, charities or NGOs, and community leaders. Regular communication with them is vital to improve community health and ensure people’s well-being.
As a behavior analyst, you must actively work with them to acknowledge their primary concerns and understand the best ways to address them. You must advocate for your client’s rights—the community, and the only means of successfully achieving this is by hearing what the stakeholders have to say.
This approach also encourages collaborations with local and international organizations and works to improve community health on a larger scale.
Applied behavior analysts in the healthcare industry most commonly work with children on the autism spectrum. However, this is a rapidly growing field that can now address a myriad of other health-related concerns within communities. Since it directly influences the health and well-being of people, it’s an immensely gratifying career with massive potential for personal and professional growth.