AHA Disparities Toolkit - Informing and Engaging the Community

Hospitals and other health care organizations are learning that when it comes to delivering health care, it is better to not go it alone. Whether your goal is to increase access to health care for specific populations, serve the uninsured, or target interventions in the community to improve care, it may be more effective if you collaborate with other organizations and stakeholders in the community. Collaboration can help you better align resources with needs, reduce competition, increase effectiveness, and make your results more sustainable. It requires that organizations work outside historical boundaries; dedicate people, skills, and energy to the effort; deal with a diversity of priorities and culture; and think of their organizational plans and operations as part of a system that needs to function seamlessly. (The Collaboration Primer, HRET, 2003.)

Communities can be defined by geographic boundaries, but they can also be defined by race, ethnicity, primary language, or immigration patterns. Community engagement allows health care organizations to work with community members and with other organizations. If your organization is about to embark on systematic collection of race, ethnicity, and primary language data, it is important to inform the community about this initiative, why you are undertaking it, what to expect, and how you will use the information. This will help to ensure that you consider community values and needs. It will facilitate the process of collecting data because the community will be an active and informed partner in this enterprise. Methods to engage the community include:

  • Community meetings
  • Focus groups
  • Working with community-based organizations
  • Newsletters
  • Posters
  • Brochures/informational pamphlets
  • Reoccurring articles in community newspapers