Coronavirus (1233) Community engagement for COVID-19 prevention and control

17 April, 2021

A new paper in BMJ Global Health. The authors note 'the lack of involvement of communities and bottom-up approaches used within COVID-19 responses thus far'. I suspect this is true worldwide and is an area that deserves more attention.

CITATION: Community engagement for COVID-19 prevention and control: a rapid evidence synthesis

Brynne Gilmore et al, BMJ Global Health

Correspondence to Dr Brynne Gilmore;


Introduction: Community engagement has been considered a fundamental component of past outbreaks, such as Ebola. However, there is concern over the lack of involvement of communities and ‘bottom-up’ approaches used within COVID-19 responses thus far. Identifying how community engagement approaches have been used in past epidemics may support more robust implementation within the COVID-19 response.

Methodology: A rapid evidence review was conducted to identify how community engagement is used for infectious disease prevention and control during epidemics. Three databases were searched in addition to extensive snowballing for grey literature. Previous epidemics were limited to Ebola, Zika, SARS, Middle East respiratory syndromeand H1N1 since 2000. No restrictions were applied to study design or language.

Results: From 1112 references identified, 32 articles met our inclusion criteria, which detail 37 initiatives. Six main community engagement actors were identified: local leaders, community and faith-based organisations, community groups, health facility committees, individuals and key stakeholders. These worked on different functions: designing and planning, community entry and trust building, social and behaviour change communication, risk communication, surveillance and tracing, and logistics and administration.

Conclusion: COVID-19’s global presence and social transmission pathways require social and community responses. This may be particularly important to reach marginalised populations and to support equity-informed responses. Aligning previous community engagement experience with current COVID-19 community-based strategy recommendations highlights how communities can play important and active roles in prevention and control. Countries worldwide are encouraged to assess existing community engagement structures and use community engagement approaches to support contextually specific, acceptable and appropriate COVID-19 prevention and control measures.


A two-way dialogue with communities and other stakeholders, essential for trust building, should be established through multiple channels with transparent, accurate and consistent information to help address rumours and misconceptions. Messages should be imparted which are focused, not fear inducing, respectful, tailored to local contexts, with relatable examples.

Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, HIFA project on COVID-19, supported by University of Edinburgh

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health movement (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: