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Rural Health Information Hub

Local Leadership and Community Involvement

Community members should be involved in every aspect of the early childhood health promotion program or intervention: assessing the issue, designing the program, implementing the program, and disseminating findings. Involving community members helps ensure the program reflects the needs of the community, and can make health promotion efforts more successful.

In order for an early childhood health promotion program to be effective, the program needs family and community engagement. Deciding what program to implement is a conversation that should involve a diverse set of stakeholders. This may include parents, caregivers, family members, teachers, school staff and administrators, and healthcare providers.

Outreach strategies should be tailored to the community to ensure children and families learn about the health promotion program. This often involves working with community partners with similar goals and coordinating efforts to reach families. Six successful, research-based outreach strategies that can help reach rural children and families are:

  • Use data from the community to inform outreach strategy
  • Adapt strategy to use the sources that families in the community go to for information
  • Include families in outreach planning
  • Build partnerships with trusted community members and leaders
  • Visit communities and participate in local events to get to know community members
  • Tailor messages to community and family members

Depending on the level of involvement from community members, there will be different standards of training required. For example, a Community-Based Doula Program connects pregnant women to doulas who provide support during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Doulas involved in the program are from the communities they serve and require special training. On the other hand, some school-based programs may only require training for teachers who are using the program's curriculum. Training for community- and family-based programs can vary widely depending on the time and energy the community is willing and able to put in. It is important to consider this spectrum of required training when evaluating whether a program will work in a community.

Resources to Learn More

A Guide for Rural Health Care Collaboration and Coordination
Describes the importance of collaboration and coordination in rural communities and how local healthcare providers can work together to form partnerships and pool resources.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources & Services Administration
Date: 8/2019

Community Participation for Rural Health: A Review of Challenges
Examines the challenges to community participation related to healthcare in rural settings, based on a review of literature. Discusses practical strategies to address these challenges.
Author(s): Kenny, A., Farmer, J., Dickson-Swift, V., & Hyett, N.
Citation: Health Expectations, 18(6), 1906-1917
Date: 12/2015