The Effectiveness of Community Engagement in Public Health Interventions for Disadvantaged Groups: A Meta-Analysis

Alison O’Mara-Eves
Ginny Brunton
Sandy Oliver
Josephine Kavanagh
Farah Jamal
James Thomas
Peer-Reviewed Article
February 2015
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A large-scale meta-analysis finds that incorporating community engagement into public health interventions leads to improved health outcomes and a greater sense of self-efficacy among intervention recipients.


Effective community engagement is critical to advancing health equity. Beyond guiding quality improvement and organizational changes that are more responsive to community needs, involving community members can improve the efficacy of programs by increasing trust between patients and providers, improving the linguistic and cultural responsiveness of services, and facilitating greater patient engagement.

This meta-analysis of over 130 studies highlights how incorporating community engagement activities into public health interventions can positively impact health outcomes, particularly among individuals with complex health and social needs.


Community engagement was found to improve outcomes across various dimensions within public health interventions. The meta-analysis revealed a statistically significant positive impact on health-related behavior, health outcomes, sense of self-efficacy among participants, and broader community and social determinants of health.

Interventions involving community members in the delivery process demonstrated greater outcomes compared to those involving community members in the design or evaluation phases. Programs targeting outreach to individuals with lower socioeconomic status exhibit greater effectiveness than those focused solely on geographic regions. Community engagement approaches integrating skill development yield the most favorable results among different strategies studied, with education-based approaches notably lower in efficacy.


This meta-analysis offers robust statistical evidence supporting the positive impact of incorporating community engagement activities within health interventions. This evidence can be used by stakeholders and advocates seeking to make the case for greater community involvement. The positive results found across different types of community engagement reflect the adaptability of community engagement strategies. This suggests that community engagement can be tailored to align with community expertise, assets, and capacity without compromising impact.

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