In 2011 the research team were awarded 2 years' funding from the NIHR Public Health Research programme to assess the impact of different approaches to community engagement on the living conditions, health and wellbeing of the residents who became engaged in NDC decision-making structures and on the people living in NDC areas. This research study began in December 2011.
Community engagement involves activities that aim to give people control over decisions that affect their lives or control of services. Internationally, it is more commonly referred to as 'community empowerment'. In 2006/07 some of the research team undertook systematic reviews of research on the process, impact and cost effectiveness of community engagement on health and health related outcomes for NICE. While the reviews identified evidence of positive outcomes associated with community engagement, the reviews also identified possible unintended negative impacts on 'engaged' individuals and concluded there were major gaps in the evidence. For example, none of the studies included in the NICE reviews assessed the impact of community engagement on health inequalities and very few measured any health outcomes at the population level.
Although community engagement was a common goal across local NDC programmes, there has been considerable variation in how engagement has been developed as well as contrasts in the populations served and the contexts of the local neighbourhoods.
Our research will allow us to explore the impact of different community engagement approaches used in the NDC initiative. The research aims to answer four questions:
The study design consists of three main phases: