Self-Healing Communities: A Transformational Process Model for Improving Intergenerational Health

July 13, 2016

**New report from MARC Advisor Laura Porter on Washington's Self-Healing Community Model**

A comprehensive model of building community capacity in Washington helped make dramatic reductions in rates of health issues and social problems.

The Issue

In the early 1990’s, Washington state set up a program to tackle issues like domestic violence, school dropouts, youth substance abuse, and others that impact families and children. These are issues that typically had been addressed separately, but the team in Washington focused on addressing them collectively. 

Key Findings

Over 10 to 15 years in Cowlitz County, Washington:

  • Births to teen mothers went down 62% and infant mortality went down 43%;
  • Youth suicide and suicide attempts went down 98%;
  • Youth arrests for violent crime dropped 53%;
  • High school dropout rates decreased by 47%;  
  • Similar results were seen in other counties.


The Self-Healing Community Model, Washington, developed strong networks that promoted much greater collaboration across sectors. They empowered local leadership and nurtured sector leaders to think about whole systems, not just their part of a system. They also used data to decide how and where to focus efforts and to learn from what was working. They made visible changes that helped to instill a real sense of hope in communities that had given up on the prospect of a better world for their children.