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. 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 with consumers and local organizations 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.

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.

Patient and Family Engagement Approaches

Select an approach (Rollover an arrow)


Organization cooperates, jointly designs and participates
Examples Include

Advisory or quality improvement committees

Skill-building training for patients


Organization shares information
Examples Include

Newsletters and ads/emails to promote services

Health fairs


Organization seeks information
Examples Include

Key informant interviews


Listening sessions and focus groups


Organization shares decision-making
Examples Include

Strategic planning committees

Governance board membership for patients

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

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

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

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

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