Book News: February 21st, 2008

The Guide has been produced by the Department of Health to support community engagement, with particular emphasis on engaging seldom-involved communities. The Pacesetters programme is a partnership between local communities who experience health inequalities arising from discrimination and the NHS and the Department of Health.

Taking the message to the community at a grassroots level is important for seldom-involved groups, particularly those communities who are served by neither mainstream nor specialist media, such as the Somali community, and new arrivals from Eastern Europe.

The Guide describes the advantages of involving voluntary sector organisations that service seldom-heard communities and also deal with the needs of non-English speakers. They are already involved in giving advice on issues such as housing, health and benefits and they can provide a social focus for communities and a venue for events. Research shows that they are keen to work in partnership provided that their involvement is not tokenistic.

Community organisations form an important part of any Community Engagement Strategy, as they offer a valuable distribution network and a source of advice and expertise on the best ways to inform people about particular issues. The Guide stresses the importance of finding community organisations.

It is also important to secure the support of people who have influence and respect in local communities. Local councillors, chairs of community organisations, professionals and religious leaders may be powerful ambassadors for the message that Pacesetter teams are seeking to get across. There is, however, a warning that such people are not always perceived as leaders by all members of that community.

The Guide is available at the DoH.