Original Paper

American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 213-220

First online:

Introduction to Special Issue on Social Ecological Approaches to Community Health Research and Action

  • David William LounsburyAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine Email author 
  • , Shannon Gwin MitchellAffiliated withFriends Research Institute


We have the potential to make new, substantive contributions to resolving our most pressing community health problems. However, to do so we must adopt a philosophy of science that is directed towards understanding the dynamic complexity and full contextual reality surrounding these issues. A social ecological approach to science is ideally suited to this challenge. This framework is systems-oriented and defines research problems in terms of structures and processes, generating research outcomes that give insight into the dynamic interaction of individuals with their environment across time and space. Though community psychology is built upon social ecological principles, researchers from other disciplines have also noted its utility and implemented interventions based on this framework. In our introductory article to this special issue on social ecological approaches to community health research and action, we present a brief review of the theoretical foundations of the social ecological approach, present highlights from our selected manuscripts, and conclude with some reflections about the need to build further capacity to conduct effective social ecological research to foster community health and well-being.


Social ecological Community health Research and action