Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Top Five Tips For Successful Community Engagement


Part II of II: Five specific strategies to gain the trust of your patient’s community, agree on health goals, and together define what success looks like.

Approaching your patient’s community is no different than approaching the patient with the disease. Know who the community is, know what their concerns and goals are, and know what can be done realistically to achieve the health status the community wants.


In order to gain the trust of your patient’s community, agree on health goals, and together define what success looks like, you can approach your patient’s community with specific strategies. Here are my top five tips to optimize successful community engagement.


Doctor and Student

1.) Know the community and what’s been done in the past.

Know the demographics and socioeconomic makeup of your patient’s neighborhood. If you can’t find this info, try the local city health commissioner’s office.


2.) Connect with the leaders of the community.

Seek out community leaders. Spiritual leaders from faith based organizations can be a good place to start, and you can meet others by attending local neighborhood meetings and events.


3.) Create a culture of equal power among all parties.

Bring all respective persons to the table when discussing community health. Your first meetings should affirm that everyone has an equal say in what health topic is to be addressed, how awareness and interventions will be implemented, and when such activities will take place.


4.) Assure your goals align with existing community health goals.

Learn and understand what the community values as health and health priorities. Take these community health wishes and align them with evidence based population health strategies.


5.) Plant seeds for sustainability.

Finally, sustainability needs to be a priority from the beginning. The community and its leaders will be comforted in knowing this partnership isn’t about research, but about the true impact human networking and engagement can have in reaffirming medicine as a public trust for all populations.


One of our most successful community engagements has been with Poe Homes Public Housing Unit, Baltimore City’s oldest public housing unit. We work with their community leaders to engage with the local youth. Every six to eight weeks we lead health talks and activities chosen by the youth. Currently, they’re exploring actions they can take this spring to guarantee a safe and healthy summer for themselves and their neighborhoods.