This rapid evidence review looks at the community engagement for infectious disease prevention and control, to learn lessons for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) worldwide and future pandemic response. Some of the key learnings on Community Engagement (CE), is:
- Early discussions and negotiation with communities is critical for understanding socio-cultural contexts and developing culturally appropriate prevention and control strategies;
- CE can help the health workforce, as it allows a multi-sectoral approach, drawing on local resources and expertise to carry out critical health system functions and create an innovative solution;
- During emergencies, the resilience and capacity of CE actors can be supported by ensuring clarity in regards to roles, and compensation, by providing trainings and equipment, and creating space for dialogue between health workers and CE actors.
- There is a need for frequent and open dialogue within CE activities; communities should be treated as active participants in, as opposed to passive recipients of, health response efforts;
- CE process usually involves identifying groups and individuals at the local level (pre-existing or new); building capacity and sustained leadership through training, technical support like planning, developing interventions, inter-sectoral action, monitoring and evaluation;
- SBCC and risk communication messaging at a household level should utilise local leaders, influential community persons or people who have experienced COVID-19, combined with mass media messages tailored to communities’ socio-cultural norms, realities and experiences.
- CE strategies have been implemented mainly in low-income countries (LIC) during Ebola epidemics, and in high-income countries (HIC) where it has been used to target minority populations for H1N1 andZika. It can be adapted and replicated among wider population groups;
- There is a need for more documentation of CE activities especially from more diverse geographic settings and with different populations. Implementers, policymakers and researchers are encouraged to share learnings from past CE initiatives and document on-going CE for COVID-19 activities;
- COVID-19’s global presence and social transmission pathways require social and community responses. All countries are encouraged to assess existing community engagement structures, conduct contextual assessments, and co-design appropriate strategies for appropriate COVID-19 prevention and control measures.