Our Principles and Approaches to Consumer Engagement

As a health entity, your relationship with your community and consumers sets the stage for how you improve health outcomes and reduce health inequities. Is that relationship as effective as it could be?

When grappling with poor health outcomes and their root causes, many institutions uncover real opportunity through deeper connections with local organizations, consumers, and historically-excluded populations. To address barriers to better health, you can learn so much from the people in your care who directly bear the burdens of social factors such as poverty, racism and cultural insensitivity. When you commit to listen, reflect, and work shoulder-to-shoulder toward solutions, you advance what we mean by “meaningful community and consumer engagement.” 

The potential benefit is enormous: better care and better outcomes at reduced cost. Yet designing and building meaningful engagement pushes organizations into unfamiliar and sometimes difficult territory. 

The Center's consulting practice helps innovative health plans, hospitals, providers, and state programs to navigate this complex terrain and incorporate the goals, needs, and voices of consumers into their systems of care. We also assist clients in partnering with their communities to achieve these aims, by facilitating new relationships and establishing strategies to nurture them over time.

At the Center, we frame community and consumer engagement around four principles:

Transparency and Inclusivity
● Involving historically excluded communities, and striving for equity
● Communicating why, how, when, and in what ways participants will play a role and the scope of their decision-making
● Making all feel welcome
● Reducing barriers to participation
● Redistributing ownership of the process through co-design of priorities, policies and programs


Respect for Different Cultures
● Approaching collaboration with humility and patience
● Drawing on community and consumer knowledge, and valuing others’ ideas about their care
● Recognizing that communities are not monolithic, so you may need to repeat this process for multiple populations and neighborhoods
● Allowing for varied levels of community involvement

Investment of Resources
● Securing long-term commitment from institutional leadership
● Dedicating skilled staff, funding, time, and resources to this effort
● Empowering and strengthening participants by offering leadership development opportunities to residents and skill-building assistance to organizational partners
● Cultivating patience in all stakeholders

Addressing Power Imbalances
● Acknowledging power dynamics between your institution and community members
● Recognizing the impact of discrimination and structural racism and facing up to any harms caused by your institution’s past or present approaches to research, economic development, billing, and access to care
● Doing more listening, less directing