Public health emergency preparedness too often focuses on institutional capabilities alone, including the provision of material and financial resources, technical expertise and political influence, while overlooking community capabilities.
Community capabilities may involve coordination with emergency management, public health institutions, community and faith-based partners and other groups to provide and sustain a flexible approach to emergency response and recovery, without jeopardising services to individuals in the community. However, the success of institutional preparedness plans depends upon acceptance by the public to ensure that the execution of the plans is complete and successful in preparedness at community-level and promoting recovery. Broader community engagement is therefore recommended worldwide.
Community engagement has the potential to be an enabler and/or a barrier to preparedness depending on how it is handled and constructed. The synergies between institutions and communities will influence the effectiveness of engagement programmes, which comprise a plan of activities and events involving the community.
Guidance on community engagement for public health events caused by communicable disease threats in the EU/EEA
This guidance on community engagement for public health emergency preparedness is intended for public health authorities in EU/EEA Member States. It is meant to provide step-by-step technical support to Member States who are initiating or professionalising their core community engagement capacity. The guidance is organised according to the three core stages of the preparedness cycle: anticipation, response, and recovery.
Sources of evidence
The sources of evidence for this guidance include a literature review, case studies and an expert consultation.
The literature review was conducted following PRISMA guidelines that identified enablers and barriers to community and institutional synergies in emergency preparedness. In 2017 and 2018 case studies were conducted in four EU/EEA countries: Spain, the Netherlands, Iceland and Ireland.
All case studies were based on qualitative sources of evidence using a rigorous and systematic approach that incorporated the findings of the literature review including:
• document and media review
• semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with community representatives and with a range of technical experts working at national and regional levels
• and a stakeholder mapping exercise.
Following the quality criteria of Guba and Lincoln for qualitative evidence, the trustworthiness of the empirical findings from the case studies was deemed sufficient for evidence-based guideline development.
Case studies - tick-borne diseases
Synergies in community and institutional public health emergency preparedness for tick-borne diseases in Spain
Synergies in community and institutional public health emergency preparedness for tick-borne diseases in the Netherlands
Case studies - gastrointestinal diseases
Community engagement and institutional collaboration in Iceland during a norovirus outbreak at an outdoor/scout centre (10–15 August 2017)