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Original Article
Health Behaviors Before and After the Implementation of a Health Community Organization: Gangwon’s Health-Plus Community Program
Joon-Hyeong Kim1orcid, Nam-Jun Kim2orcid, Soo-Hyeong Kim2orcid, Woong-Sub Park1,2orcid
Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health 2023;56(6):487-494.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3961/jpmph.23.121
Published online: August 17, 2023
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1Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Catholic Kwandong University College of Medicine, Gangneung, Korea

2Community Health and Welfare Research Center, Catholic Kwandong University, Gangneung, Korea

Corresponding author: Woong-Sub Park, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Catholic Kwandong University College of Medicine, 24 Beomil-ro 579beon-gil, Gangneung 25601, Korea E-mail: wspark69@naver.com
• Received: March 7, 2023   • Revised: April 28, 2023   • Accepted: May 1, 2023

Copyright © 2023 The Korean Society for Preventive Medicine

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

  • Objectives
    Community organization is a resident-led movement aimed at creating fundamental social changes in the community by resolving its problems through the organized power of its residents. This study evaluated the effectiveness of health community organization (HCO), Gangwon’s Health-Plus community program, implemented from 2013 to 2019 on residents’ health behaviors.
  • Methods
    This study had a before-and-after design using 2011-2019 Korea Community Health Survey data. To compare the 3-year periods before and after HCO implementation, the study targeted areas where the HCO had been implemented for 4 years or longer. Therefore, a total of 4512 individuals from 11 areas with HCO start years from 2013 to 2016 were included. Complex sample multi-logistic regression analysis adjusting for demographic characteristics (sex, age, residential area, income level, education level, and HCO start year) was conducted.
  • Results
    HCO implementation was associated with decreased current smoking (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.73; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.57 to 0.95) and subjective stress recognition (aOR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.64 to 0.97). Additionally, the HCO was associated with increased walking exercise practice (aOR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.13 to 1.71), and attempts to control weight (aOR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.12 to 1.64). No significant negative changes were observed in other health behavior variables.
  • Conclusions
    The HCO seems to have contributed to improving community health indicators. In the future, a follow-up study that analyzes only the effectiveness of the HCO through structured quasi-experimental studies will be needed.
Community participation and empowerment have long been emphasized in health promotion programs. As lifestyle habits and social environments have become prominent determinants of health and health disparities have increased, primary healthcare focusing on community-based health programs, with community participation as a strategy, has emerged [1]. As an increasing emphasis was placed on individuals’ ability to manage and control determinants of health to improve their health status with the concept of health promotion, community empowerment through community participation subsequently became a core strategy in health promotion programs [2].
In this context, community-based participatory research (CBPR) has emerged, in which collaborative bodies, including residents who were previously only considered as targets of health programs, participate in researching and practicing interventions to solve health problems and bring about social change [3]. The effectiveness of CBPR in enhancing community health is explained by the CBPR conceptual model, which consists of context, partnership dynamics, research/intervention, and outcomes [4]. The context, which represents socioeconomic and cultural characteristics, influences partnership dynamics (e.g., relationships among partners). Effective partnership dynamics create synergy among partners to develop intervention and research designs. Through participation in interventions developed with a community-centered approach, community partners become empowered and reach outcomes such as health promotion and improvement in health equity. Based on this framework, various achievements of CBPR have been reported [5,6].
In Korea, community-based participatory health promotion programs aimed at empowering communities have emerged. Since the initiation of the Healthy Ban Song pilot project in 2007, various projects such as Gyeongsangnam-do (Province) Health Plus Happiness Plus Project, Gyeongsangbuk-do Health Saemaeul Project, and Seoul’s community-based participatory health program entitled “Building Healthy Communities” have been carried out [7]. Various attempts have been made to examine the effects of these community-based participatory health promotion programs [6,8-11].
In Gangwon Province, health community organization (HCO)—Gangwon’s Health-Plus community program—was implemented in 20 towns, townships, and neighborhoods (eup, myeon, dong—i.e., small-scale administrative units) from 2013 to 2019 [12]. The program was approached from the perspective of the community organization, which is a resident-led movement aimed at creating fundamental social changes in the community by resolving its problems through the organized power of its residents [13]. The community organization is based on community organizing, which involves establishing a system of the power of residents to properly perceive the community and solve its problems. Thus, the concept of empowerment is inherent in the idea of community organization [14].
The HCO in Gangwon Province exhibited several differences from the community-based participatory health program in other areas. First, it aimed to construct people’s organizations based on the principle that residents can solve health problems themselves. The involvement of public health center staff was minimized; instead, coordinators were recruited from the local community to serve as the key personnel. The coordinators met with residents as community organizers and found those who had leadership potential. Second, the HCO was based on the principle of thorough community-centeredness. The composition of the health committee, a people’s organization, was based on local residents rather than existing community leaders such as heads of urban villages, rural villages, or hamlets (ri, tong, ban—i.e., the smallest administrative district units), community health center staff, and health professionals. The public health center staff and coordinators refrained from suggesting or directly carrying out health committee’s interventions and instead waited for residents to initiate interventions based on their own desires. This approach enabled residents to determine the entire intervention process from planning to budget allocation and to directly carry out the interventions. Third, residents received education that encouraged them to speak up for themselves. This education did not transfer knowledge about health or interventions, but instead aimed to raise interest in the community and encourage residents to speak up about problems they encountered and possible solutions. Fourth, in addition to education, dialogue among residents to enable mutual learning by sharing their daily lives was facilitated [12,15,16].
The purpose of this study was to evaluate changes in health behaviors after HCO establishment among residents in areas of Gangwon Province that implemented the HCO.
Data
The Korea Community Health Survey (KCHS) was conducted by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, and data were collected from adults aged 19 years or older via interviews annually from August to October. The sample was extracted from an average of 900 adults per city, county, or district (si, gun, gu; the unit of local government in Korea) based on the type of housing within each town, township, and neighborhood. The primary sampling unit (urban village, rural village, or hamlet) was obtained using probability proportional to size systematic sampling, after which the secondary sample families were selected [17].
This study had a before-and-after design using KCHS data from 2011 to 2019, focusing on 3-year periods before and after implementation of the HCO. The HCO began in 2013 in 2 areas, followed by 4 areas in 2014, 3 areas in 2015, 4 areas in 2016, 5 areas in 2017, and 2 areas in 2018. The main goal of the HCO was to empower residents to address health issues in their communities, but it was recognized that achieving this goal would not be a quick process. Therefore, the first year of the HCO was included in the pre-HCO period. To compare the 3 years before and after HCO implementation, a total of 4512 individuals from 11 areas where the HCO was implemented for 4 years or more were included: Bukbang-myeon in Hongcheon-gun, Miro-myeon in Samcheok-si, Gohan-eup in Jeongseon-gun, MungokSodo-dong in Taebaek-si, Nam-myeon in Hongcheon-gun, Jumunjin-eup in Gangneung-si, Jungdong-myeon in Yeongwol-gun, Cheongho-dong in Sokcho-si, Hyeonnam-myeon in Yangyang-gun, Daehwa-myeon in Pyeongchang-gun, and Gapcheon-myeon in Hoengseong-gun.
For areas where the HCO started in 2013, we designated the years 2011-2013 as “before HCO implementation” and the years 2014-2016 as “after HCO implementation.” For areas where the HCO started in 2014, we designated the years 2012-2014 as “before HCO implementation” and the years 2015-2017 as “after HCO implementation.” For areas where the HCO started in 2015 we designated the years 2013-2015 as “before HCO implementation” and the years 2016-2018 as “after HCO implementation.” For areas where the HCO started in 2016, we designated the years 2014-2016 as “before HCO implementation” and the years 2017-2019 as “after HCO implementation.”
Demographics
The demographic characteristics of the study population included sex, age, residential area type (urban, rural), household income (<2 million, ≥2 million Korean won [KRW] or more per month), education (middle school or less, high school or above), and HCO start year (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). The residential area type was classified as urban for neighborhoods and rural for towns or townships.
Outcomes (Health Behaviors)
The main health behavior indicators from the KCHS guidelines were used as outcomes. To define the outcomes, we followed the definitions of the indicator variables as established by the KCHS guidelines [18].
Current smoking was classified as “yes” for those who had smoked more than 5 packs (100 cigarettes) in their lifetime and currently smoked, and “no” for others. Current smokers were subdivided into those who did or did not plan to quit smoking within 1 month and according to whether they had attempted to quit smoking for 24 hours or more within the past year.
Monthly drinking was classified as “yes” for those who drank alcohol at least once a month in the past year, and “no” for those who did not. High-risk drinking was classified as consuming 7 or more drinks at once at least twice a week in the past year (5 or more drinks for female).
Walking exercise practice was classified as “yes” for those who walked for 30 minutes or more a day for at least 5 days in the past week, and “no” for those who did not. Subjective obesity recognition was classified as “yes” for those who responded that they were “slightly obese” or “very obese”, and “no” for those who did not. Attempt to control weight was classified as “yes” for those who made an effort to “lose or maintain” their weight in the past year, and “no” for those who did not.
Subjective stress recognition was classified as “yes” for those who responded as “feeling very stressed” or “feeling quite stressed” in their daily lives, and “no” for those who did not. Experience of depression was classified as “yes” for those who experienced sadness or despair that interfered with their daily lives for 2 or more consecutive weeks in the past year, and “no” for those who did not.
Statistical Analysis
This study was analyzed using SAS version 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC, USA). The Rao-Scott composite sample chi-square test was performed to compare the health behavior indicators before and after HCO implementation. Complex sample logistic regression analysis was conducted to examine the changes in health behavior indicators before and after HCO implementation, and complex sample multiple logistic regression analysis was conducted to adjust for demographic characteristics.
Ethics Statement
This study was deemed exempt by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Institutional Review Board because of the anonymous sample.
The demographic characteristics of the study population are presented in Table 1. Before the HCO (n=2205), males accounted for 45.7% of the population, and the average age was 57.4 years. The residential area type was predominantly rural, with 83.7%. During that period, 54.2% had a monthly household income of less than 2 million KRW, and 59.5% had a middle school education or lower. After the HCO (n=2307), males accounted for 46.4%, and the average age was 59.2 years. The residential area type was still predominantly rural, with 83.6%. During that period, 51.8% had a monthly household income of less than 2 million KRW, and 57.7% had a middle school education or lower.
The proportion of health behaviors before and after HCO implementation is presented in Table 2. After the HCO, there was a decrease in current smoking from 26.4% to 22.5% (p=0.036), while there was an increase in the proportions of current smokers who planned to quit smoking within 1 month, from 3.8% to 5.2% (p=0.527), and had attempted to quit smoking, from 21.3% to 23.1% (p=0.630), compared to before HCO implementation. Monthly drinking and high-risk drinking also decreased from 55.5% to 54.9% (p=0.783) and from 18.3% to 17.9% (p=0.804), respectively. Additionally, walking exercise practice increased from 21.6% to 27.4% (p=0.002), and subjective obesity recognition increased from 35.9% to 37.8% (p=0.329), while the proportion of participants who had attempted to control their weight increased from 45.0% to 50.7% (p=0.017) after HCO implementation. However, despite the decrease in subjective stress recognition from 28.9% to 23.7% (p=0.012), there was an increase in the experience of depression from 5.9% to 7.5% (p=0.155) after HCO implementation.
Regarding changes in health behaviors before and after HCO implementation, the results of a simple logistic regression analysis and a multiple logistic regression analysis adjusted for demographic characteristics are shown in Table 3. In simple logistic regression analysis, Current smoking decreased by 0.81 times (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.66 to 0.99) after HCO implementation. Walking exercise practice and attempts to control weight increased by 1.37 times (95% CI, 1.12 to 1.69) and 1.26 times (95% CI, 1.04 to 1.52), respectively, after HCO implementation. Furthermore, subjective stress recognition decreased by 0.76 times (95% CI, 0.62 to 0.95) after HCO implementation. In multiple logistic regression analysis, current smoking decreased by 0.73 times (95% CI, 0.57 to 0.95) after HCO implementation. Additionally, walking exercise practice and attempts to control weight showed an increase of 1.39 times (95% CI, 1.13 to 1.71) and 1.36 times (95% CI, 1.12 to 1.64), respectively, after HCO implementation. Moreover, subjective stress recognition decreased by 0.79 times (95% CI, 0.64 to 0.97) after HCO implementation. There were no significant changes in other health behaviors.
This study was conducted to investigate the effects of the HCO in Gangwon Province by examining changes in health behaviors indicators after HCO implementation. The main results are summarized as follows. Even after adjusting for demographic characteristics, current smoking and subjective stress recognition decreased, while walking exercise practice and attempts to control weight increased after the implementation of the HCO.
The decrease in current smoking after HCO implementation is consistent with several previous studies [19-22]. Based on statistical data and health surveys, residents analyzed the health problems of their communities. The health committee in areas with higher smoking rates felt the need for smoking cessation and planned smoking cessation interventions. They not only created smoke-free streets on busy roads, but also regularly conducted smoking cessation campaigns [23]. As a result, negative perceptions of smokers among residents are expected to have increased. Smokers received negative feedback on smoking and positive feedback on smoking cessation, which strengthened their efforts to quit smoking, and residents supported smoking cessation for smokers and ex-smokers, which decreased the smoking rate [22].
The observed decrease in stress recognition also coincided with the results of previous studies [24,25]. As residents participated in the HCO, they formed a sense of community among neighbors through formal and informal gatherings [25]. Residents who built relationships provided emotional support to each other, which decreased stress [26].
The increase in walking exercise practice and attempts to control weight can be attributed to various reasons. Residents of areas with high obesity rates shared similar concerns and were motivated to solve them [27]. In addition, the health committees created walking paths and planned walking festivals without the involvement of public health centers to promote a walking culture [28]. The improved pedestrian environment also had positive effects on attempts to control weight and walking exercise practice [29]. Furthermore, participating in the HCO provided opportunities for walking, since residents had to leave their homes to attend health committee meetings and other organized activities [30,31].
Some health behavior indicators did not show significant changes. There are several possible reasons for this: First, there may have been dilution of the results as individuals who did not participate in the HCO were also included in the study. Second, the sample size used in this study may have been inadequate to produce statistically significant findings.
The CBPR conceptual model provides a comprehensive framework for examining the health promotion effects of the HCO [5]. Through community organizing, the residents participated in health committees and established partnerships with each other and the community health center. They gained leadership and cooperation skills through education, and shared their concerns about local health issues. They initiated interventions such as smoking cessation campaigns and the creation of walking paths based on their own desires. As a result of implementing the interventions and subsequent reflections, a sense of community was established among the residents, and the health committees were empowered to solve problems. Moreover, the intervention positively influenced the residents’ health behaviors, and the improved environment and sense of community had a positive impact on sustaining those health behaviors [32].
Subjective obesity recognition increased, although not significantly, which may have been influenced by the increasing trend of obesity rates in Korea [33]. Although stress decreased, there was no significant change in the experience of depression, which suggests a need for further research.
This study makes several contributions. First, in a context where quantitative research on the impacts of the HCO is lacking, this study sought to evaluate the effects of the HCO using a community health survey. Second, it is worth noting that the study examined a relatively extended period of the HCO to account for the potential impact of sufficient empowerment resulting from community participation. Third, the study reflects the diverse characteristics of the areas where the HCO was implemented, as it was carried out in various locations within Gangwon Province, rather than a single area.
There are several limitations that need to be considered. First, the study had an uncontrolled before-and-after design, which limits the ability to interpret the results accurately, as factors other than the HCO may have influenced the results, such as general trends. Second, to evaluate HCO at the town, township, and neighborhood level, data from 3 years of the KCHS were combined to compensate for the small sample size. However, since the KCHS samples at the city, county, and district level and is designed separately each year, the validity of the data has limitations. Third, the community health survey used in this study included people who did not participate in the HCO, which means that the results should be interpreted as reflecting the effect of health promotion on the entire community, rather than just on the individuals who participated. Fourth, although the study conducted a before-and-after analysis with adjustment for the HCO start year in each area, the results may have been influenced by other HCOs that started earlier in different areas. Finally, the areas were not selected through probability sampling, making it difficult to generalize the research findings to the entire Gangwon Province. In the future, to analyze the effects of the HCO more accurately, structured quasi-experimental studies should be conducted. These studies should compare HCO implementation areas and control regions that are selected by probability sampling and control for differences in data collection periods.
This study explored the impact of the HCO on residents’ health behaviors and revealed that the HCO had a positive influence on community health indicators. However, for a more in-depth understanding of the HCO’s effects, it is essential to conduct future research comparing HCO implementation areas with control areas.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

The authors have no conflicts of interest associated with the material presented in this paper.

FUNDING

None.

AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS

Conceptualization: Kim JH, Park WS. Data curation: Kim JH, Kim NJ. Formal analysis: Kim JH, Kim NJ. Funding acquisition: None. Methodology: Kim JH, Park WS. Writing – original draft: Kim JH. Writing – review & editing: Kim JH, Kim NJ, Kim SH, Park WS.

This article was based on a thesis submitted by the first author to Catholic Kwandong University College of Medicine in partial fulfillment for the Master of Science in Medicine.
Table 1.
Demographic characteristics of the study population before and after implementation of the health community organization
Characteristics Before (n = 2205) After (n = 2307)
Sex
 Male 1008 (45.7) 1070 (46.4)
 Female 1197 (54.3) 1237 (53.6)
Age (y) 57.4±16.0 59.2±15.8
Residential area type
 Urban area (dong) 359 (16.3) 379 (16.4)
 Rural area (eup/myeon) 1846 (83.7) 1928 (83.6)
Household income (104 Korean won/mo)
 Low (<200) 1189 (54.2) 1184 (51.8)
 High (≥200) 1005 (45.8) 1102 (48.2)
Education
 Middle school or below 1310 (59.5) 1328 (57.7)
 High school or over 893 (40.5) 975 (42.3)
Health community organization start year
 20131 155 (7.4) 147 (7.4)
 20142 770 (28.5) 909 (31.2)
 20153 331 (36.7) 328 (34.9)
 20164 949 (27.5) 923 (26.4)

Values are presented as number (weighted %) or weighted mean±standard error.

1 Bukbang-myeon in Hongcheon-gun; the years 2011-2013 were considered “before” and years 2014-2016 were considered “after.”

2 Miro-myeon in Samcheok-si, Gohan-eup in Jeongseon-gun, MungokSodo-dong in Taebaek-si, Nam-myeon in Hongcheon-gun; the years 2012-2014 were considered “before” and years 2015-2017 were considered “after.”

3 Jumunjin-eup in Gangneung-si, Jungdong-myeon in Yeongwol-gun; the years 2013-2015 were considered “before” and years 2016-2018 were considered “after.”

4 Cheongho-dong in Sokcho-si, Hyeonnam-myeon in Yangyang-gun, Daehwa-myeon in Pyeongchang-gun, and Gapcheon-myeon in Hoengseong-gun; the years 2014-2016 were considered “before” and years 2017-2019 were considered “after.”

Table 2.
The proportion of resident’s health behaviors before and after implementation of the health community organization
Health behaviors Before After p-value
Current smoking Yes 494 (26.4) 462 (22.5) 0.036
No 1711 (73.6) 1845 (77.5)
Plan to quit smoking within 1 mo (among current smokers) Yes 18 (3.8) 30 (5.2) 0.527
No 476 (96.2) 432 (94.8)
Attempt to quit smoking (among current smokers) Yes 106 (21.3) 107 (23.1) 0.630
No 388 (78.7) 355 (76.9)
Monthly drinking Yes 1071 (55.5) 1152 (54.9) 0.783
No 1134 (44.5) 1154 (45.1)
High-risk drinking Yes 338 (18.3) 337 (17.9) 0.804
No 1867 (81.7) 1969 (82.1)
Walking exercise practice Yes 477 (21.6) 648 (27.4) 0.002
No 1727 (78.4) 1658 (72.6)
Subjective obesity recognition Yes 773 (35.9) 831 (37.8) 0.329
No 1431 (64.1) 1476 (62.2)
Attempt to control weight Yes 953 (45.0) 1107 (50.7) 0.017
No 1252 (55.0) 1199 (49.3)
Subjective stress recognition Yes 559 (28.9) 516 (23.7) 0.012
No 1646 (71.1) 1786 (76.3)
Experience of depression Yes 143 (5.9) 155 (7.5) 0.155
No 2062 (94.1) 2149 (92.5)

Values are presented as number (weighted %).

Table 3.
Complex sample logistic regression for changes in health behaviors after implementation of the health community organization
Health behaviors Categories Unadjusted Adjusted1
Current smoking Yes 0.81 (0.66, 0.99)* 0.73 (0.57, 0.95)*
Plan to quit smoking within 1 mo (among current smokers) Yes 1.37 (0.51, 3.69) 1.38 (0.54, 3.51)
Attempt to quit smoking (among current smokers) Yes 1.11 (0.73, 1.68) 1.14 (0.74, 1.74)
Lifetime drinking Yes 0.98 (0.82, 1.16) 1.00 (0.83, 1.20)
High-risk drinking Yes 0.97 (0.76, 1.23) 0.93 (0.71, 1.23)
Walking exercise practice Yes 1.37 (1.12, 1.69)** 1.39 (1.13, 1.71)**
Subjective obesity recognition Yes 1.09 (0.92, 1.28) 1.15 (0.96, 1.37)
Attempt to control weight Yes 1.26 (1.04, 1.52)* 1.36 (1.12, 1.64)**
Subjective stress recognition Yes 0.76 (0.62, 0.95)* 0.79 (0.64, 0.97)*
Experience of depression Yes 1.29 (0.90, 1.86) 1.41 (0.97, 2.04)

Values are presented as odds ratio (95% confidence interval).

1 Adjusted for sex, age, residential area type, household income, education, and health community organization start year.

* p<0.05,

** p<0.01.

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      JPMPH : Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health