query: is organizing good for your health

colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Sun Feb 22 15:14:45 CST 2004

[ed:  Amanda elaborates on Doug's comments.]

From: "Amanda I. Seligman" <seligman at uwm.edu>

The term "learned helplessness" was coined by psychologist Martin
Seligman.  In the 1980s he changed his focus from the negative effects of
helplessness to the positive effects of optimism, centering on one's
"explanatory style."  He now promotes "positive psychology" as a research
interest and a general outlook.  His two most recent useful books, written
to be accessble to the general public, on the positive psychology side are

[full disclosure:  I am his daughter]

> From: DougRHess at aol.com
> Interesting comments by Nathan, as always. It calls to mind some
> research done on the amount of control nursing home elderly had
> over their lives and longevity that were done long ago. I believe
> searching for the term "learned helplessness" would turn these
> studies up. I don't know where that theory/research stands, but
> it was popular in the 1980s. Essentially, when given a constant
> sense of defeat, lab animals would stop acting to help themselves
> (insert cruel lab rat and dog experiment data here.) Of course,
> lab rats don't organize (effectively at least). But the idea that
> organizing gives feelings of efficacy is very old, if not well
> tested.  
> One question for the theory will be this: does the actual extent
> of the control over one's life matter, or just the perception of
> it?  
> Doug Hess
> Ph.D. Student, 
> School of Public Policy & Administration,
> George Washington University
> Home address: 
> 2114 N St., NW Apt. 23
> Washington, DC 20037
> 202-955-5869
> (cell 202-276-4807)
> > From: "Nathan Henderson-James" <nathanhj7 at hotmail.com>
> > 
> > Well, now, this is an interesting question. And the answer is,
> > as far as I know, no.  
> > 
> > Now, there are some interesting studies and literature that
> > point towards a hypothesis that posits that community
> > organizing is good for the health of the people involved and,
> > by extension, also good for people who live near improvements
> > won through organizing (though the effects are probably not as
> > strong). Some of this includes the longitudinal studies of the
> > British civil service by Marmot, some studies of nursing home
> > patients by the Harvard School of Public Health (at least I
> > think its them), and an intriguing book by Kawachi and Kennedy
> > called The Health of Nations, which idicts inequality within
> > societies as a prime cause of negative public health outcomes. 
> > 
> > 
> > All of this led me to seek out a leader in the field of social
> > epidemiology named S. Len Syme, an emeritus professo at the UC
> > Berkeley School of Public Health. In fact, he helped found the
> > field and when I suggested to him that CO was a potential
> > intervention to increase the health of people involved in it,
> > he was intrigued. Every other intervention tried in teh field
> > had failed miserably and they had come to the conclusion that
> > something having to do with "locus of control" or the
> > loosely-defined "empowerment" had something to do with what was
> > happening, espcially since there was a marked difference in the
> > health outcomes of people as you climb the socio-economic
> > gradient (in other words poor people get sick and die at rates
> > much higher than affluent people; well it's slightly more
> > complex than that, but that's the idea I was most interested in
> > as an ACORN staff member).  
> > 
> > So Len and I have worked with some grad students and created a
> > design for a study that would look at an ACORN organizing drive
> > and see what kinds of changes in people's perception of there
> > mental and physical health occurred over that time. Right now
> > we're starting to look around for the funding to put it into
> > practice. If we can secure some and run a study with
> > significant results, then we might ber at th start of an
> > entirely new era in the perception of community organizing, not
> > to mention the possibilities for funding.  
> > 
> > We're presenting a paper on our collaboration to date at a
> > conference on interdiciplinary research at Vanderbilt
> > University in May. I'd be more than happy to keep people abrest
> > of developments as they occur. And, of course, any ideas and
> > suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Especially if you
> > know people at the CDC, NIH, or Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
> > 8-)   
> > 
> > For the purposes of this particular request, I would look for
> > the studies of the nursing home patients. The results were
> > striking. Citations for the studies can be found in Robert
> > Sapolsky's book Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers.  
> > 
> > Nathan
> > 
> > Nathan Henderson-James
> > Performance Poet
> > ACORN National Political Staff
> > 510-213-1970 cell
> > nathanhj7 at hotmail.com
> > "I want to inject your blunt caustic observations between my
> > toes so that some day my truth will kick someone's ass!" > >
> > From: "Jennifer Flynn" <flynn at nycahn.org> > > Does anyone have
> > any studies that say that being involved in > community
> > organizing (involved in civic participation, being a > member
> > of an organization, etc.) is good for your health?  > > Thanks.
> > > > --Jennifer Flynn > NYC AIDS Housing Network > >
> > _______________________________________________ 
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