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Rural Health Information Hub

Community Readiness and Engagement

Successful health promotion and disease prevention programs rely on involvement from the community. Community readiness refers to how prepared the community is to take action to address a particular health issue. When individual community members come together to identify problems and strategies to address them, it increases the ability of the program to affect change.

There are several stages of community readiness. During program planning and implementation, rural communities should consider community perception and readiness to help, which may differ by intended population and by the health topic or issue being addressed.

Using a participatory decision-making process empowers communities to improve health. It emphasizes active participation from the community in identifying key health issues and strategies to address them. Communities focus on their strengths and collectively mobilize to develop programs to achieve health goals. Community engagement increases ownership among community members for their health and improves social support for achieving healthy changes.

Key elements in community involvement may include:

  • Understanding the context and root causes of health issues
  • Collaborative decision making and problem solving
  • Focusing efforts on specific issues
  • Actively engaging participation from various groups and organizations within the community
  • Developing and maintaining capacity and power to produce lasting change
  • Providing feedback to the community

Community health workers (CHWs) may support community engagement through targeted activities to garner support for policy and social changes. For more information on how CHWs support community organization, visit the Community Health Workers Toolkit.

Resources to Learn More

Community Development: A Guide for Grantmakers on Fostering Better Outcomes Through Good Process
Helps funders learn about effective collaborative community development processes and includes a variety of resources for additional study.
Author(s): Potapchuk, B., & Kopell, M.
Organization(s): The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Date: 8/2015

Planned Approach to Community Health (PATCH): Guide for the Local Coordinator
Provides materials designed to help communities plan, conduct, and evaluate health promotion and disease prevention programs using the PATCH process.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Date: 7/2017

Principles of Community Engagement: Second Edition
Combines organizing concepts, models, and frameworks from the literature to discuss several underlying principles that can assist health professionals, researchers, policymakers, and community leaders in planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating community engagement efforts.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Date: 6/2011

The Community Tool Box: Chapter 5 – Section 1. Strategies for Community Change and Improvement: An Overview
Discusses the advantages of people working together within an organizations to affect change to improve communities. Identifies strategies useful when working in an organizational setting to facilitate change and offers examples of communities organizing for community projects.
Organization(s): University of Kansas Work Group for Community Health and Development