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Community Pract. 2009 Feb;82(2):22-5.

Community engagement: from a professional to a public perspective.

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Sheffield Hallam University.


Community engagement is a policy initiative to promote public health, and represents government aspirations to develop a healthy and fair society. It is a recent addition to a succession of policy initiatives that are designed to encourage members of the public to become more engaged in the promotion and maintenance of their optimum health. While earlier policies focused on individual behaviour, community engagement considers the actions that communities can take to promote health. Community engagement represents a shift of emphasis from individualistic health care to public health. To date, NHS initiatives that aim to involve the public in their own health care have often been limited and tokenistic. Healthcare professionals have been identified as a barrier to the development of community engagement, demonstrating a reluctance to share decision-making and power with the public, allowing them a limited voice in healthcare matters. When the public are able to make meaningful decisions, community engagement can lead to substantial health gains. This paper considers some of the issues that need to be addressed in order for community engagement to progress and become an effective tool to enhance health and wellbeing.

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