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Functions of Community Networks

Networks offer a means of making progress towards preventing and addressing obesity when no single organization has the expertise or resources to bring about change. Networks also ensure that obesity prevention programs take a broad perspective to address the individual and environmental factors that affect obesity.

  • Recruiting program participants
  • Identifying resources (e.g. meeting space for classes)
  • Changing organization policies to support physical activity and healthy eating
    (such as opening school facilities to communities for physical activity or making healthy foods available at places of worship)
  • Offering insight on informational needs and learning styles
  • Helping identify and select evidence-based or promising intervention strategies
  • Adapting or developing curricula and materials
  • Ensuring cultural relevance
  • Ensuring sustainability of the obesity prevention program

Networks come in a variety of forms and serve different purposes. Examples of community networks are presented in Table 2-1.

Table 2-1: Community Networks and their Typical Roles and Membership
Type of Network Typical Role Typical Membership
Multi-sector coalitions Assemble partners for a specific purpose or to solve a particular problem. Members include all who are affected by the problem. Representatives and resources from numerous issue areas (e.g., education, economic development, transportation, agriculture, health) and sectors (business, nonprofit, government)
Regional coalitions Collaborate around a defined program of action to improve health in a specific geographic area (as large as one or more states, or as small as a metropolitan area) Voluntary organizational members
Wellness councils Act collectively to carry out efforts at specific sites (e.g., schools or worksites) to improve the health of people within that institution Staff and employees (and in schools, the community members, family members, and students)
Community advisory boards Formalize academic-community partnerships in community-based participatory research and represent community members in research activities Representatives from regional organizations (for-profit, nonprofit, school, faith-based, government) as well as community members
Steering committees Provide advice and guidance to those planning an intervention Broad community representation