The Family to Family program used monthly "reunion dinners" to strengthen Harlem families, with implications for the prevention of community epidemics.
AUTHORS: Robert E. Fullilove, Lesley Green and Mindy Thompson Fullilove.
From the Community Research Group, The Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
PUBLICATION: 2000, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
KEYWORDS: structural HIV/AIDS interventions, African-Americans, social capital, families
Objectives. To describe a case study of a community-based intervention located in the Harlem community of New York City, one of the oldest African-American communities in the United States. Although not specifically designed to prevent HIV infection, the program, 'Family to Family', exemplifies a 'structural intervention' that was created to strengthen family functioning and to strengthen the bonds that connect families to each other. By fostering strong relationships within and between families in a community with high rates of violence, drug abuse, and HIV infection, the program seeks to improve the quality of neighborhood life and influence the social determinants of individual risk behavior.
Social capital. Family to Family was created specifically to develop the 'social capital' that is available to children and families in the Harlem community. Social capital refers to resources that result from social relationships, and that enhance an individual's or a group's ability to function and achieve a given set of goals and objectives. In addition to fostering closer relationships between children and their parents, this program also works to help participating families develop closer relationships with other participating families and with Columbia University student and faculty volunteers. Finally, Family to Family is sustained through the efforts of volunteers; it receives no grant support and is entirely self-supporting.
Conclusions: Family to Family has the potential to change the social dynamics that promote HIV risk behavior in communities such as Harlem. Should it prove successful in improving the relationships between families and children, and in increasing the social capital available to all of its participants, it may become an important asset to public health prevention specialists concerned about preventing the spread of HIV.