Community Engagement Toolkit

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Involve the people you serve

Refugees, immigrants and migrants have made important contributions to communities across the United States, and they have shown remarkable strength and resilience. Involving the communities you serve in your planning and decision-making practices will only enhance the services you offer. Members of any community know best how to communicate with their peers, which is why we advocate for community involvement as a central element to any infectious disease response. 

Ukrainian Refugee Crisis Response: Actively and Authentically Engaging Communities in Outbreak Response Activities

As one of the largest destination states for United for Ukraine arrivals, Washington Department of Health (WA DOH) has implemented programs and community outreach strategies aimed at engaging Russian and Ukrainian speaking communities, and effectively pivoting in response to the larger Ukrainian refugee crisis. Recognizing the barriers to vaccination for the community, they developed best and promising practices to address these challenges. 

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Creating a Community Advisory Board

Community advisory boards (CABs) are comprised of community members of who serve as equal partners to those in the healthcare or public health system. CAB members bridge cultural differences and increase trust by assisting with project planning, prioritizing, and implementing activities; vetting educational or other resources; and communicating with community members. Learn how you can get started with a CAB in your community:

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Promising Practices are strategies, approaches, or programs that have anecdotally shown to have a positive impact in some local settings, however, there is not yet enough research-based evidence to certify as a best practice.

 Submit your own Promising Practice

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Bridging Faith and Health: Effective Strategies for COVID–19 Mitigation in Muslim Faith Communities

Faith-based approaches to health interventions, particularly involving mosques and including religious leaders, have proven to be instrumental in reaching and positively impacting Muslim communities in the context of COVID-19 mitigation. 

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Vaccine Campaign Partnerships with Faith-Based Organizations

Faith-based organizations frequently play an integral role within communities. Select this promising practice to learn more about involving faith-based organizations in vaccine campaigns.

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COVID Champions: Trusted Faith Leaders

A COVID-19 Champion is someone who helps disseminate accurate information on public health and safety, local support services, and their own experiences relating to COVID-19 to specific communities, including related to COVID-19 vaccines. While this resource was originally developed for COVID-19, the methods and approach could easily be applied to other circumstances.

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Utilizing Community Health Boards to Build Community Capacity

Health inequities often stem from a lack of trust and understanding between RIM communities and public health or healthcare agencies. Community health boards can serve as an effective strategy to build capacity within a community as well as provide community members with a trusted resource for health information and guidance.

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Motivational Interviewing

Building vaccine confidence takes time and trust. Client-facing staff and others working directly with community members seeking to dispel fear, misinformation, and disinformation will usually need to engage and explore people's hesitancy before sharing accurate information. One helpful way to do this is using some of the techniques found in Motivational Interviewing.

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Community Fairs

Community fairs are a promising way to offer vaccination and other useful services to RIM communities in a relaxed and informal setting. Hosted at an accessible site, community fairs can be organized around themes ranging from school to community health to community resources like food, rent and utility assistance. Read more about how community fairs can be implemented in your community.

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Health Equity Zones

The purpose of a health equity zone is to create and equip neighbors and community partners with resources to foster a healthy and vibrant community. This approach can be applied to infectious disease outbreak responses among RIM communities.

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Using Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR)

Traditional research methods do not commonly reflect community voices, and perspectives. Often community members are not meaningfully engaged in the research process. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is a collaborative approach to research that involves engaging community members, researchers, and organizational representatives as equal partners to enhance understanding of a given problem, create change and ideally improve health challenges.

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Youth and Young Adult Ambassadors

Youth and young adults continue to have low COVID-19 vaccination rates across the US. Engaging youth is vital in the next stage of vaccine promotion and for reaching herd immunity. Learn how youth ambassadors bring their unique perspectives on how to cut through the noise to deliver important COVID-19 messaging to young people. While this resource was originally developed for community engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic, the methods and approach described could easily be applied to other circumstances.

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Hyperlocal Videos of City and State COVID-19 Updates

It is vital that linguistically and culturally appropriate messaging created by and from the community is accessible. These informal videos respond to RIM communities’ expressed concerns while disseminating major local and regional updates from city and state officials.

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Partnering with Social Media Influencers

Social media is a primary source of information for much of the US public, especially youth and young adults. Organizations that are unable to utilize social media to engage with the community can result in a trusted and known presence being absent from this important space, allowing myths, misinformation and disinformation to spread without competition. A solution that can help LHDs and CBOs reach RIM communities through social media, while saving time and effort, is leveraging existing social media influencers.

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The Benefits of Community Advisory Boards

The use of community advisory boards is a promising practice that can support equity-focused initiatives to combat infectious disease outbreaks.

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Embedding Equity throughout the COVID-19 Response Organizational Structure

It is essential to integrate considerations for refugee, immigrant, and migrant communities into all aspects of public health response efforts. Read more about the Minnesota Department of Health’s work to embed equity throughout the COVID-19 response organizational structure. While this resource was originally developed in the context of COVID-19, the methods and approach described in here could easily be applied to other diseases.

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Vaccine Ambassadors Program

The Vaccine Ambassador program is led by a state health department and supports community members to serve as trusted messengers of vaccine information.

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Community Mapping

Community mapping is a virtual mapping method created through community engagement that elicits local community members and their networks and is a powerful tool to identify and reach RIM communities.

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Culturally Specific Vaccine Information Broadcasts

By partnering with media outlets that are trusted in the community, vaccine messages can be culturally tailored and address unique concerns.

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Supporting Mental Health in RIM Communities During COVID-19 and Beyond

Ensuring equitable, barrier-free access to mental health support and resources is especially critical for RIM communities to mitigate the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on this population and prevent further trauma. While this resource was originally developed for response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the methods and approach described could easily be applied to other circumstances.

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Partnerships with Consulates

Engaging with consulates is a strategy for building or enhancing relationships with refugee, immigrant, and migrant communities. 

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Partnership with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)

FQHCs and local health departments share goals to improve community health, particularly among disproportionately impacted populations. Collaboration allows limited federal, state, and local resources to be targeted and allocated to areas that need the resources most.

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Partnerships with Youth Groups

Partnerships with existing community groups are essential for reaching underserved communities and improving the delivery of services, resources, and information. Youth groups can be especially effective outreach partners.

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Engaging Community Leaders with Public Health Authorities

Collaboration between community leaders and public health authorities can improve the dissemination of accurate public health messaging, strengthen relationships with RIM communities, and ensure that public health interventions reflect the perspective of RIM communities.

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Community Contractors for Health Messaging

Community-based organizations (CBOs) and diverse media vendors provide culturally and linguistically appropriate guidance using a community contractor model of partnership. Select this promising practice to learn more about creating trusted, timely and, and culturally-relevant health information.

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Community-Led Hotlines

Hotlines, organized by volunteers and health providers who are members of or work in RIM communities, provide a forum for patients’ families to seek information and communicate more effectively with their health providers. 

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Community Health Workers

Community health workers are deeply rooted in their communities, often members of the community themselves, and are uniquely positioned to partner with health departments and other organizations.

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Partnerships with State Refugee Health Coordinators

State Refugee Health Coordinators can help state and local public health departments better address refugee health needs as part of a comprehensive and effective public health response.

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Community Testimonials for Health Messaging

Testimonials are powerful tools to portray real stories from community members. 

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COVID-19 Community Coordinators 

Health departments have begun to formalize relationships with community-based organizations to connect diverse communities to COVID-19 resources. While this resource was originally developed for COVID-19, the methods and approach could easily be applied to other circumstances.

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Vulnerable Populations Taskforce

The creation of a vulnerable populations task force is a promising practice to address the needs of disenfranchised community members. Learn more about how task forces can operate remotely and offer an opportunity to engage a wide range of stakeholders. 

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Community Liaisons to Connect Health Departments with Communities

Community liaisons are staff within a health department who are members of refugee, immigrant, and migrant and other disproportionately impacted communities.  Select this promising practice to learn how liaisons build relationships with community members, collaborate with local public health, and connect with external partners. 

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Vaccine Listening Sessions with Communities

A listening session is a facilitated discussion with a group of individuals aimed at collecting information about a specific topic. Listening sessions are an effective way to hear directly from communities about vaccines.

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Facebook Videos to Engage Communities

The use of Facebook to share informational videos among RIM communities and/or to deliver live content through the Facebook Live feature are promising practices for reaching RIM communities.

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Community Movie Night + Information Exchange

Health departments are partnering with community-based organizations (CBO) to host outdoor movie nights in apartment complexes where members of refugee, immigrant, and migrant communities live. During intermissions or after the movie, PSAs developed by the CBO or health department are shared. 

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The NRC-RIM team wants to hear from you. Please contact us with suggestions for additional training or communication resources - either an existing resource that you have found useful or suggestions for resources to be developed.