The Community Voices for Health approach is informed through the on-the-ground work in six states—chosen through a competitive process—to implement projects using a common framework focused on equity-centered, inclusive community engagement, community-engaged research, and communication and sustainability. Each state received financial support and technical assistance to undertake their projects.

Learn more about the projects in their own voices:

  • Colorado: A partnership between the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and the Center for African American Health to construct new, and improve existing, opportunities for African American residents of the Denver metro area to engage in health-care policy change
  • Georgia: A partnership between Georgia Watch Inc., Georgians for a Healthy Future, the Morehouse School of Medicine, and Georgia Advancing Communities Together to provide training and resources on advocacy and organizing for community health workers to enable them to mobilize marginalized communities around policy issues
  • Indiana: An effort led by Citizens for Community Justice Inc. and the Community Justice and Mediation Center, in partnership with the Gnarly Tree Sustainability Institute and Indiana University’s Political and Civic Engagement Program and the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, to build on existing state and local partnerships to create a model for meaningful, deliberative, and inclusive engagement for community members and stakeholders in Monroe County, Indiana. The project emphasized engaging marginalized or underserved communities in local decision-making related to public health.
  • Nevada: Led by the Kenny Guinn Center for Policy and the Clark County Department of Social Service, this multisector, multi-organizational effort worked with youth to build a statewide youth-engagement infrastructure and expand its capacity. The effort is expected to improve health outcomes for youth and increase their input in the decision-making processes. This project leveraged existing efforts among youth, social service agencies, nonprofits, and service providers in Nevada to build youth boards and improve social service systems (social determinants of health) that address the needs of youth (e.g., child welfare and juvenile justice).
  • New Mexico: A partnership of the New Mexico Alliance of Health Councils, the New Mexico Department of Health, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center – Center for Participatory Research, the Center for Health Innovation, New Ventures Consulting, and several New Mexico county and tribal health councils focused on community-based participatory research (CBPR). New Mexico is unique in its use of local health councils, which have provided community-based health planning and coordination in New Mexico since 1991. Through CBPR projects, this effort provided the tools and technical assistance health councils need to strengthen the stakeholder engagement, assessment, planning, and policy formulation necessary for addressing urgent needs in public health, primary care, behavioral health, and social determinants of health.
  • Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Health Access Network, Temple University, and a diverse group of community partners developed an engagement and research infrastructure for understanding the needs and priorities of communities throughout Pennsylvania, with a specific focus on the communities whose voices have not traditionally been heard in health policy. The research infrastructure (a survey panel modeled after Temple’s successful BeHeardPhilly platform) is a community access tool that collects and shares data with health systems, policymakers, and citizens.

When the Community Voices for Health initiative launched in the spring of 2020, we had no idea that the work would be undertaken within the context of a global health crisis. State grantees had to be flexible, resourceful, and creative in ways they never imagined. This report captures a snapshot of remarkable progress within stressful conditions and highlights the power of community engagement, research, and state-level collaboration in advancing health equity.

Community Voices for Health: Lessons Learned

At the conclusion of the effort, Public Agenda’s research team conducted 18 in-depth confidential online interviews across all six teams, with state-based grantees, community-based partner organizations, and community members who served on steering committees. Interviews were designed and conducted to allow for reflection on the work completed, identify best practices, and consider improvements. The findings outlined in this report are specific to these six initiatives and are not necessarily applicable to other engagement initiatives. The goal of this report is to inform the efforts of people working to strengthen health policy through community engagement and community-engaged research.

Download the Lessons Learned Report