Building Community Well-being Through Emotional Intelligence and Cognitive Reframing


With communities facing so much unrest, here are two skills you can apply to help promote healing.

Fam Pract Manag. 2021 Jan-Feb;28(1):23-26.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

Family physicians lead by example and play a major role in the health and well-being of their communities. Their contributions go far beyond clinical care and are reflected in volunteer work on school boards, at homeless shelters, at free clinics, and within educational and service programs across the globe.

Community well-being is critically linked to individual well-being. Community health depends on the well-being of each member. Similarly, belonging to a strong community is essential to enhancing the well-being of individuals. It improves personal and professional health, and there's evidence it can reduce physician burnout.1,2

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs suggests that reaching the highest level of achievement or self-actualization depends on a strong foundation. Physiologic needs (food, water, and rest) as well as the need for safety and belonging are primal and must be met before we can reach our full potential. Further, the overall health of a community depends on collective progress toward self-actualization.

The year 2020 will be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic that turned our daily lives upside down, protests over racial inequities in American society, and political division. No community was immune from these ills, but some were hit harder than others. For example, the pandemic disproportionately harmed minority populations, with Black Americans experiencing death rates more than twice as high as white Americans.3

These challenges have shown us how small our world can be and how our well-being is linked across the globe. We win or lose together. When one member is unwell, oppressed, or silenced, the whole population suffers. Community well-being commands a unified and healthy population.

Building healthy communities requires excellent clinical care and attention to social determinants of health. It also requires incorporating two new skills into your practice: emotional intelligence and cognitive reframing.


  • Community well-being depends on the well-being of each individual, and a healthy community enhances the well-being of its members.

  • Adverse experiences result in negative thoughts, emotions, and actions, and have the capacity to diminish community well-being.

  • Family physicians can help build healthy communities and lead change by using emotional intelligence to resolve fear, and cognitive reframing to correct distorted thoughts.



Maslow AH. A theory of human motivation. Psychol Rev. 1943;50(4):370–396.

Mcleod S. Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Simply Psychology. March 20, 2020. Accessed Dec. 8, 2020.



Maslow AH. A theory of human motivation. Psychol Rev. 1943;50(4):370–396.

Mcleod S. Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Simply Psychology. March 20, 2020. Accessed Dec. 8, 2020.



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Dr. Pipas is a family physician and Professor of Community and Family Medicine at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and the Department of Medical Education at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. She is the author of A Doctor's Dozen: 12 Strategies for Personal Health and a Culture of Wellness, and has been recognized as a leader in wellness, education, research, and clinical care. Her recent awards include the 2019 Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Humanism Award and the 2019 Family Medicine Education Consortium This We Believe Award. Dr. Pipas serves as the chief wellness officer for CaseNetwork....

Elina Pepper is a student at Dartmouth College.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.


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1. Nguyen NS, Métraux EL, Morris-Singer AF. Combating clinician burnout with community-building. NEJM Catalyst. July 31, 2018....

2. Pipas CF, Damianos JA, Montalbano L, Matous AL, Hua J, Shoop GH. A curriculum to promote a culture of wellness among medical students and faculty. PRiMER. 2020;4:13.

3. The color of coronavirus: COVID-19 deaths by race and ethnicity in the U.S. APM Research Lab. Updated Dec. 10, 2020. Accessed Dec. 10, 2020.

4. Mayer JD, Brackett MA, Salovey P, eds. Emotional Intelligence: Key Readings on the Mayer and Salovey Model. Dude Publishing; 2004.

5. Beck JS, Beck AT. Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond. 2nd ed. The Guilford Press; 2011.

6. Coffey SF, Banducci AN, Vinci C. Common questions about cognitive behavior therapy for psychiatric disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2015;92(9):807–812.

7. Beck AT, Haigh EAP. Advances in cognitive theory and therapy: the generic cognitive model. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2014;10:1–24.

8. Rozin P, Royzman EB. Negativity bias, negativity dominance, and contagion. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2001;5(4):296–320.

9. Haidt J. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. Basic Books; 2006.


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