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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Community Resilience

The vision for health security described in the National Health Security Strategy (NHSS) is built on a foundation of community resilience: the sustained ability of communities to withstand and recover from adversity. Resilient communities include healthy individuals and families with access to health care, both physical and psychological, and with the knowledge and resources to care for themselves and others in both routine and emergency situations. Enhanced resilience is considered critical to mitigating vulnerabilities, reducing negative health consequences, and rapidly restoring community functioning.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 21
named “community resilience” as one of the “four most critical components of public health and medical preparedness,” along with biosurveillance, countermeasure distribution, and mass casualty care.
HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan addressed the delivery of psychosocial programs to improve the “resilience of workers and their families,” and the “resilience of the healthcare workforce.”

Core Components of Community Resilience

  • Social connectedness for resource exchange, cohesion, response, and recovery
  • Effective risk communication for all populations, including at-risk individuals
  • Integration and involvement of government and non-governmental entities in planning, response, and recovery
  • Physical and psychological health of the population
  • Social and economic well-being of the community

Characteristics of Resilient Communities

Resilient communities have robust social networks and health systems that support recovery after adversity. They are prepared to take deliberate, collective action in the face of an incident and have developed material, physical, social, and psychological resources that function as buffers to the negative effects of these incidents and help protect people’s health. Social connectedness is integral to a resilient community’s ability to marshal resources, communicate with residents, and plan for infrastructure and human recovery.

The Role of Public Health Preparedness and Response

Community resilience is only possible with strong and sustainable public health, medical and psychological health care and emergency response systems. This means that the health care infrastructure is:

  • Ready to prevent or mitigate the spread of disease, morbidity, and mortality.
  • Capable of meeting anticipated needs and able to surge to meet unanticipated ones.
  • Able to mobilize people and equipment to respond to emergencies.
  • Capable of accommodating large numbers of people in need during an emergency.
  • Knowledgeable about its population—including needs, culture, literacy, and traditions—in order to communicate effectively with the full range of affected populations, including at-risk individuals.

Promoting Community Resilience

Although it is difficult to determine the resiliency of a community until after an incident, the foundation of community resilience is established before adversity strikes. Identifying, developing, and enhancing plans and resources necessary for mitigating vulnerabilities, reducing negative health consequences, and rapidly restoring community functioning promotes community resilience. Examples of community resilience promoting activities include:
  • Strengthen social and cultural networks pre-disaster, and establish pre-disaster relationships with nontraditional partners in disaster preparedness and response activities, to promote social re-engagement activities post-disaster.
    • Such groups include faith-based organizations, non-governmental social support organizations, consumers of mental health services, family and child advocacy organizations, non-English speaking communities, and drug and alcohol abuse agencies, among others.
  •  Integrate key capabilities into disaster planning, such as economic development, social capital, community competence, and information and communications; enlist community members in planning at all levels.
  • Develop a range of communications tools appropriate for the community’s health literacy and cultural diversity.
  • Leverage the diverse resources of communities through public-private sector collaborations and partnerships.
  • Address the psychological health of a community, specifically by fostering adaptive coping responses to adversity.
  • Develop and implement community-level public education plans detailing how individuals, families, and households prepare for health incidents, highlighting information for and about at-risk individuals.
View PDF version of the Community Resilience fact sheet.

  • This page last reviewed: December 18, 2012