How to better engage underserved groups in health care decision-making

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (the Partnership) and the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo (the Propel Centre) have published an Environmental Scan and Reflection Guide to present current and leading practices for engaging underserved groups in health-care decision-making.

Evidence shows certain populations have greater risk factors for disease, poorer access to care, and increased morbidity and mortality compared to the general population, but several barriers may prevent these groups from participating in health-related initiatives. Some of these barriers include differences in language, lack of transportation, having a low income, or living in a rural setting.

Disparities in health and health care make it imperative as well as challenging to reach those who need to be engaged in policy change. This environmental scan and reflection guide are designed to help engagement practitioners and leaders tackle this challenge – regardless of whether the underserved groups are new immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, older adults, or those living with low incomes.

Findings suggest establishing trust and building connections with community members is critical to engaging with underserved groups. One way to build support is to develop processes with the unique needs and capacities of participants in mind. This partnered plan can help address individual barriers to participation, help participants overcome skepticism, and build support for the overall process.

While strategies to improve public and patient engagement are increasingly common, there is limited evidence on the most efficient and effective way to organize and approach this effort. Overall, health care organizations have an opportunity to contribute to the lessons and literature through meaningful evaluations of engagement strategies. This will help advance equity to ensure underserved groups have access to appropriate and effective care at all stages of their illness trajectory.

To learn more, view the environmental scan, Best practices in reaching underserved groups for deliberative engagement and public dialogues and the reflection guide, Learning together: how to better engage underserved groups in healthcare systems.