Community engagement is a philosophy that underpins remote and rural service delivery. Community engagement is one of a number of terms used to refer to the process of involving the community in the decision making about health services including health service planning, policy development, implementation of health services and evaluation of services.
The term community, within the philosophy of community engagement refers to people who either directly or indirectly use health services. In this sense community may include people who are currently use, or have used health services, carers of people receiving health care, consumer groups (who may share common experiences of health need), consumer organisations (such as advocacy, self-help groups), members of the community who may be future uses and community members who benefit from health care services.
The process of engagement facilitates community participation. This participation can occur at a number of levels including the local (community level), state/territory or national levels. At a community level consumers of services and local community members may be involved in service development (service planning), implementation and evaluation for health services within the local area. At a State / Territory and National level consumers of services and community members may be involved in broader policy development and service planning.
Benefits of Community Engagement
The potential benefits of engaging the community in health service delivery are plentiful for both the community and the Allied Health Professional. They may include:
- Greater consumer understanding of health issues and local priorities
- Improved consumer and community satisfaction
- Greater community ownership and investment
- More responsive health services
- Greater accountability for public funds
- The development of better quality services.
Engaging the Community
There are a range of strategies to involve consumers in health service decision making. Some of these include:
- Consumer advisory committees
- Consumer/community members on health system committees
- Consultation about specific issues (which may be undertaken using methods such as focus groups and surveys).
In determining appropriate strategies to engage the community, particular consideration needs to be given to how to effectively include, and represent, the diversity of individuals and communities.
Community Engagement & You
- How effectively do you engage the community in your practice?
- How can you create opportunities for community participation?
- How could community engagement impact your service delivery?