Leveraging Community Expertise to Advance Health Equity

Eva H. Allen
Jennifer M. Haley
Joshua Aarons
DaQuan Lawrence
July 2021
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Trust, flexible funding, cross-sector support, sustainability, and an explicit focus on structural racism are identified as key components of effective community engagement to advance health equity.


Effective community engagement is critical to advancing health equity. Beyond guiding quality improvement and organizational changes that are more responsive to patient needs, building accountable relationships with communities served can help bridge gaps in trust between health care organizations and historically marginalized communities that have resulted from long-standing bias, stigma, and racist practices within the health care system.

This brief draws on interviews with state agencies, community-based organizations (CBOs), consumer advocacy groups, and philanthropic organizations to identify facilitators for effective community engagement to advance health equity.


The report offers key recommendations for designing and implementing effective community engagement efforts to advance health equity. It highlights the importance of trust, sufficient and flexible funding, cross-sector collaboration, and ensuring community engagement efforts are continuous, sustained over time, and explicitly focused on addressing structural racism. Study participants also stressed the crucial role that meaningful community engagement plays in enabling a deeper understanding of and more effective strategies to address the drivers of inequities.  


Many interviewees emphasized the important role that trusted CBOs that offer culturally and linguistically responsive services can play in effectively implementing the report’s recommendations. This underscores the importance of fostering cross sector partnership and ensuring that CBOs can access funding sources to support these efforts.

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