IPCHS. Integrated People-Centred Health Services

Community engagement for resilient health systems

Community workspace

Public health is at an important crossroad.  Although, there is no universally agreed definition of “community engagement” within the health sector, there is growing recognition that community engagement has a wide reach that can fundamentally influence the direction and quality of public health implementation efforts.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa - the world’s largest and most protracted Ebola response in history - reinforced that “context” and “culture” matter. The experience underscored the interdependent and reciprocal relationship between health service providers and health service users. The actions or inactions of service providers and response teams deeply impacted community trust, understanding and reactions.

In addition, four decades of health programme implementation experience ranging from immunization to maternal and child health and more recently health emergencies, has shown that there are conceptual, technical, programmatic and structural barriers to scaling-up and institutionalizing existing models of best practice in community engagement, participation and mobilization. 

Finally, major demographic, economic and environmental transitions of the 21st Century are placing tremendous pressure for change on national health systems. Emerging demands on health systems such as: greater citizen expectations; double-burden of disease and multi-morbidity; unhealthy behaviours and life-style choices; and the increased need to self-manage care when combined with existing system constraints such as: the lack of community engagement; a sub-optimal health workforce; service fragmentation and inappropriate service delivery models; and insufficient and misaligned financing are all taxing national health systems. Effectively addressing these emerging demands within existing system constraints will require a unique focus –a human-centred approach.

The recognition of the human dimension of health programmes and services provides an opportunity for over-due innovations and can accelerate the attainment of highly ambitious global visions and goals set for health.

Purpose of the community:

Connect experts and health professionals from different regions of the world to work on developing an institutional culture of engagement within the health sector that integrates, is inclusive, responsive and people-centred.

Objectives of the community:

  • Synthesize relevant research from the medical, social and human sciences.
  • Contribute to developing ethical, evidence-based policy options for community engagement.
  • Address specific topics related to community engagement (CE) that supports the development of a community engagement framework relevant for integrated services, quality and resilience.

Examples of issues to be addressed:

  • Collection and dissemination of information on efficient models of community engagement.
  • Innovations in community engagement interventions for integrated services, resilience and quality.
  • Identification of relevant implementation and operational research.
  • Capacity issues for engagement at strategic entry points in the health system (collaborative practice, teamwork and leadership).
  • Trust between health service providers/programmes and communities.
  • Stigma, discrimination and equity in health settings.
  • Compassion and empathy.
  • Staff and patient satisfaction.

Products of the community

  • Series of case studies, interviews, webinars and identification of priority research questions on specific aspects of CE.
  • Synthesis of key discussions and references materials.
  • Training material and list of e-learning courses.
  • Questions/answers database on community engagement for integrated services, quality and resilience.