The Power of Community


Derin Adunbi

1st Year MPH Health Behavior Health Education Candidate

In public health, we learn about the five terms MacQueen uses to define communities: locus, social ties, joint action, sharing, and diversity. These terms didn’t mean much to me as I read them, but after meeting and learning more from the people in San Antonio, I can see how they have shown up to define this community despite the health challenges they face. I want to take some time to go through these words and provide examples from my experience with the communities of the westside of San Antonio:  

Locus: a sense of place. One of the most prominent examples of locus would be The Neighborhood Place. All of our focus groups, key informant interviews, and community gatherings were held here. San Antonio is a big city, but it felt so much more intimate and welcoming inside The Neighborhood Place.

Joint action: a source of cohesion and identity. Many of the people we talked to shared similar racial and ethnic backgrounds. More importantly, they were connected by feelings. Feelings of frustration in understanding their asthma, feelings of joy when they heard someone recovered from an illness, and feelings of pride in the people they shared space with. 

Sharing: common interests and perspectives. I enjoyed hearing from community members about the things they liked to do around the neighborhood. Whether that is dancing classes six days a week or water aerobics, they were always willing to share their hobbies with us!

Diversity: social complexity within communities. While San Antonio has a majority Hispanic/Latinx population, diversity showed up in other ways. There was such an array of jobs, from retired teachers to veterans. People also had diverse experiences due to their roles, medical conditions, and experiences with us.    

Social ties: the foundation for community. Probably the most important component of the community in San Antonio. I think that the foundation of this community is built on care for each other. If someone needed information, another person would have it. People shared stories to spread joy and share in successes. This community is tied by its love for the people and the city. 

As I wrap up my week here in Texas, I want to take away the importance of community. It is not just a series of definitions from MacQueen or other researchers. It is a collection of people, feelings, emotions, and memories. It is the foundation of the work we do and the people we serve.