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Review summary: Community engagement to reduce inequalities in health

Broad-scale evidence as to the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of community engagement is limited. This document summarizes a systematic review by O’Mara-Eves et al (2013) that aimed to: i) identify community engagement approaches that can improve the health of disadvantaged groups and/or reduce health inequalities; ii) describe the populations and contexts in which such approaches are effective; and iii) understand the costs associated with implementing these approaches.

This summary presents key implications for community engagement research and practice that follow from the author’s findings. It emphasizes that future work must prioritize mixed-method evaluations, community-lead and defined engagement activities, and critical analysis as to the multi-level factors shaping engagement and inequalities.

The review used four strategies to do this: a) theoretical synthesis of community engagement models; b) meta-analysis of effectiveness studies; c) thematic synthesis of process evaluations; and d) economic analysis of costs and resources data.

Despite indication of the effectiveness of community engagement on health outcomes, a limited evidence base made it difficult to say whether certain approaches were more effective and/or cost-effective than others. Based on their findings, the authors proposed a conceptual framework for community engagement, highlighting how engagement approaches can vary from theory to practice.

Based on: O’Mara-Eves A, Brunton G, McDaid D, Oliver S, Kavanagh J, Jamal F, et al. Community engagement to reduce inequalities in health: a systematic review, meta-analysis and economic analysis. Public Health Res 2013; 1(4).

Use this resource to

  • learn about current evidence and evidence gaps in the area of community engagement in public health
  • consider how  your research or practice can contribute to strengthening the evidence base and promote meaningful engagement
  • initiate discussion on the connections between engagement models and frameworks on research and practice

Reference

National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health. (2015). Review Summary: Community engagement to reduce inequalities in health. Antigonish, NS: National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, St. Francis Xavier University.

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Tags: Community development, Community engagement, Evaluation

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