Approaches and Experiences of ‘Community Engagement’ for Pandemic Preparedness in Superdiverse Urban Areas in the G7: The Case of Marseille, London and Cleveland

Building on previous British Acacemy work, we will compare French ‘methodes d’allez vers’ (going-to methods) and understandings of ‘community’ in Marseille, the work of community engagement teams and community groups in Ealing, and Cleveland City council outreach strategies. We propose a framework to understand challenges and differences, comparing five dimensions of community engagement: purposes, institutions, people, relationships, and processes. This will yield targeted lessons learned from COVID-19 for future epidemic preparedness that enhances equity.
Project status

Simplistic and monolithic understandings of community can lead to unequal health impacts in epidemics. Understanding the community as homogenous can result in one-size-fits-all approaches which do not recognise heterogeneity and power struggles within ‘communities', and the underlying structural inequalities that shape relationships with health services. In turn, ‘community engagement’ looks very different in different contexts: from an institutionalised and professionalised activity in the public sector in the case of London, to a civil society and health activist-led initiative in Marseille, and a civil service-third sector partnership in Cleveland. These different practices of engaging with residents for preventative health have generated different outcomes in terms of health equity during COVID-19.

Preparing for an epi/pandemic in superdiverse urban contexts is challenging. Disease surveillance, risk prevention, and response planning are occurring amidst significant economic, social and health inequities. Inequality, racism, economic deprivation, limited health system access and poor service experience weaken trust in health authorities. The diverse backgrounds (ethnicity, race, migration status, age, digital inclusion, labour market experience, etc.) and experiences of the population, their very different epi/pandemic vulnerabilities and capacities to engage response activities compound this. Their CE needs are thus diverse and expand beyond health to housing, livelihoods and other priorities. Indeed, epi/pandemic preparedness is unlikely to be a priority for many in such precarious and inequitable contexts.

Building on previous British Academy research, this research is a collaboration between the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the the Laboratoire Sciences Sociales Appliques (LaSSA). We will work with diverse health and community actors in Marseille, Cleveland and London to reflect on the purpose(s), institutions, people, relationships, and processes of ‘community engagement’ during COVID-19 to support better epi/pandemic preparedness centring health equity.

Research team: Dr Santiago Ripoll, Institute of Development Studies; Dr Ashley Ouvrier, Laboratoire de Sciences Sociales Appliquées; Dr Megan Schmidt-Sane, Institute of Development Studies; Ms Tabitha Hrynick, Institute of Development Studies

Outputs and Media

Video: Community engagement in epidemic and pandemic preparedness

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