Capacity building has developed as a health promotion approach that enables people to address determinants of health and to improve health outcomes. Although capacity building has been much discussed, little is known about what it means to build capacity in northern communities. This study explores the meaning and experience of capacity building in the Yukon.
A qualitative study, using an interpretive descriptive analysis, was undertaken through individual and small-group interviews with 21 Yukon health education workers associated with the Yukon College Public Health and Safety unit as first aid instructors. Participants were randomly selected from four groupings of Yukon communities, based on size. Transcripts were analyzed and interpreted for the health education workers' understanding, experience and observations of the outcomes of capacity building.
Findings about capacity building are reported in relation to meaning, process, role of the health education worker and capacity-building outcomes. Themes that emerged indicate the ways in which health educators build on strengths, their focus on achieving an end of immediate importance within the community, and how they live in relationship with the community while undertaking capacity-building activities.
In Yukon communities, the influence of relational practices of health education workers living and working in their communities on enhancing community capacity should not be underestimated. Further clarification of the concepts and appropriate measurement of capacity building and community capacity, particularly for rural and northern communities, may help support practice that contributes to redressing health inequities.