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A Systematic Review of Research on Community Engagement to Reduce Inequalities in Health

6 Jan 2014 - 11:47 by Nigel Rose

Collecting evidence about whether community engagement works is difficult, far more difficult than measuring the effectiveness of a new medicine. A new report looks at 361 studies and concludes overall that community engagement works.

The review considered the following questions:

  1. What is the range of models and approaches underpinning community engagement?
  2. What are the mechanisms and contexts through which communities are engaged?
  3. Which approaches to community engagement are associated with improved health outcomes among disadvantaged groups? How do these approaches lead to improved outcomes?
  4. Which approaches to community engagement are associated with reductions in inequalities in health? How do these approaches lead to reductions in health inequalities?
  5. Which types of intervention work best when communities are engaged?
  6. Is community engagement associated with better outcomes for some groups than others? (In particular, does it work better or less well for children and young people?)
  7. How do targeted and universal interventions compare in terms of community engagement and their impact on inequalities?
  8. What are the resource implications of effective approaches to community engagement?
  9. Are better outcomes simply the result of increased resources, or are some approaches to community engagement potentially more cost-effective than others

The conclusion in brief and, of course, with many qualifications was:

"the meta-analysis suggest that public health interventions using community engagement for disadvantaged groups are effective in terms of health behaviours, health consequences, participant self-efficacy and perceived social support outcomes. These findings appear to be robust and not due to systematic methodological biases. There are also indications from a small number of studies that interventions can improve outcomes for the community and the engagees."

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