The Mississippi Public Health Association (MPHA) is committed to advocating for key health policies that will improve the health outcomes of all people in Mississippi. Healthy communities are essential for economic development, and the MPHA is dedicated to ensuring that Mississippi has a strong public health infrastructure to protect and promote the health of its citizens. Community associations have called on university researchers to explore and consider new approaches to understanding community empowerment. For example, in East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, two predominantly Latino low-income communities in Los Angeles, California, the quality of the local food environment has become a major concern for community members, neighborhood nonprofit agencies, and local public health department staff members due to the scarcity of healthy food options.
Empowering communities to address health disparities can be challenging if community partners appear to be less invested than researchers and policy makers in changes to systems such as health system reform or legal system reform. Researchers working with underserved communities are more likely to be successful in empowering the community when regulations emerge that support those changes and become “community-level policies” (such as wearing a seatbelt or getting vaccinated against seasonal flu). Improving community health outcomes through community empowerment requires building trust and relationships between the community and researchers. This can include outside experts such as community organizers and academic researchers who are experienced in working with community members, as well as members of the community such as community health workers and church pastors who serve the poor.