Health literacy: Developing healthy communities

The University of Applied Sciences in Nordhausen and Pfalzklinikum explain why rural areas have advantages over cities in developing healthy communities

A protection shield that makes you resistant and crisis-proof: resilience is the unshaken belief in the ability to influence and shape one’s own life – and that can be learnt. People’s health competence and how communities develop it plays an important role in this context.

In daily life, how can I obtain information about what promotes my health, prevents diseases and improves my quality of life as a whole? Am I in a position to form my own opinion and to make my own decisions? The development of health competence is the responsibility of each individual. However, it depends even more on the quality and availability of information about health, on the way it is conveyed and the participation of people in the competence-shaping processes, in their community.


Indeed, local communities in the rural area have to deal, for example, with a shortage of medical specialists and hard-to-reach educational and health offers. When developing health competence they have, however, important advantages over cities because of their tight structures: The direct contact to influencers as the mayor, the general physician or school, to neighbours or clubs, strengthens the solidarity among people and, thus, the readiness for common processes of change. Accompanied by local moral concepts, social-environment-related identity is fundamental for resilient communities. These tight structures, often grown over decades, can be used to develop future-oriented concepts of how people within their community can support each other.

Strengthening resilience

In one of their fields of work the initiative, ‘The Palatinate makes itself/you strong – Ways to Resilience’, aims to strengthen the local resilience in the more rural Donnersberg district, in Rhineland-Palatinate. In 2017 the citizens will be asked which health-promoting structures they see in their social environment, how they are networked among themselves and how people get involved. From the results of this citizen participation, citizen-oriented offers and development projects for a healthy region shall be derived and implemented.

This interdisciplinary initiative was founded in 2014 by Pfalzklinikum and international project partners – among them universities, communication experts and further service providers for mental health. The common aim is the creation of a resilient Palatinate Region until 2025, in which people help each other to stay healthy and to cope better with crises. Apart from the approach in the local community the initiative also promotes among others, the development of resilience in small and medium-sized companies, as well as in a school setting.

More information about the projects and contact details for the initiative can be found at: or

Comic Resilienz KOMPLETT Stand 13.04.2017 Doppelseite englisch_final-1
To view the comic, click the cover image


Prof. Dr. Markus Steffens and Prof. Dr. Cordula Borbe, Institute for Social Medicine, Rehabilitation Sciences and Healthcare Research (ISRV), University of Applied Sciences of Nordhausen.

Paul Bomke, CEO of Pfalzklinikum in Klingenmünster and founder of the initiative „The Palatinate region makes itself/you strong – ways to resilience“.

Paul Bomke

CEO of Pfalzklinikum

Pfalzklinikum AdöR

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