Community engagement is one of the ways states are attempting to establish and maintain trust while improving the accessibility and quality of healthcare services for everyone.
Community engagement is central to addressing the systemic inequities and structural discrimination entrenched in health systems. By fostering trust and mutual respect, exposing unforeseen or unintended barriers to health, and improving program efficacy by accounting for the experiences of the people impacted by programs and policies, community engagement can promote equity.
Community engagement by nature is not a guaranteed tactic to advance equity. To actualize its full potential, community engagement must be designed with equity as its leading principle through engagement of diverse communities and accounting for power imbalances.
Transformational community engagement shares power with community and is built on trust, transparency, and mutual accountability.
Shifting power to the community can be done in a variety of ways. In addition to sharing decision-making power with the community, increasing access to the decision-making process is key.
Reflecting on current community engagement initiatives and infrastructure is the first step in moving towards transformational community engagement. To do this, state agencies must identify where their organization’s existing community engagement efforts fall in the context of health equity. Once a benchmark is established, the next step is evaluating agency resources and setting goals to advance equitable community engagement.
A related brief, also available for download, shares two case studies from Colorado and Virginia that both highlight real world examples of how states can invest in coordinated community engagement strategies to amplify the voices of those directly impacted by healthcare policy decisions and drive improvements.
About State Health and Value Strategies
State Health and Value Strategies (SHVS) assists states in their efforts to transform health and healthcare by providing targeted technical assistance to state officials and agencies. The program is a grantee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, led by staff at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs. The program connects states with experts and peers to undertake healthcare transformation initiatives. By engaging state officials, the program provides lessons learned, highlights successful strategies, and brings together states with experts in the field. Learn more at www.shvs.org.
About Health Equity Solutions
Health Equity Solutions (HES) promotes policies, programs, and practices that result in equitable health care access, delivery, and outcomes for all people regardless of race or income. HES works with State Health and Value Strategies (SHVS) to guide the program’s health equity work generally while also providing targeted technical assistance to states. HES is based in Hartford, Connecticut and focuses its work outside of the support it provides to SHVS on achieving health equity in Connecticut. Learn more at www.hesct.org.
Achieving Health Equity
As health disparities in the United States continue to grow, RWJF's health equity toolkit provides resources, data, and examples of communities working to achieve better health for all.
Building Community Power
RWJF supports research and organizing to increase grassroots capacity to shape conditions for healthier communities, especially in low-income communities and communities of color.