Publications

Community engagement in deprived neighbourhoods during the COVID-19 crisis: perspectives for more resilient and healthier communities

Broeder, Lea den; South, Jane; Rothoff, A.; Bagnall, Anne-Marie; Azarhoosh, Firoez; Linden, Gina van der; Bharadwa, Meena; Wagemakers, A.

Summary

The current COVID-19 pandemic confines people to their homes, disrupting the fragile social fabric of deprived neighbourhoods and citizen’s participation options. In deprived neighbourhoods, community engagement is central in building community resilience, an important resource for health and a prerequisite for effective health promotion programmes. It provides access to vulnerable groups and helps understand experiences, assets, needs and problems of citizens. Most importantly, community activities, including social support, primary care or improving urban space, enhance health through empowerment, strengthened social networks, mutual respect and providing a sense of purpose and meaning. In the context of inequalities associated with COVID-19, these aspects are crucial for citizens of deprived neighbourhoods who often feel their needs and priorities are ignored. In this perspectives paper, illustrated by a varied overview of community actions in the UK and The Netherlands, we demonstrate how citizens, communities and organizations may build resilience and community power. Based on in-depth discussion among the authors we distilled six features of community actions: increase in mutual aid and neighbourhood ties, the central role of community-based organizations (CBOs), changing patterns of volunteering, use of digital media and health promotion opportunities. We argue that in order to enable and sustain resilient and confident, ‘disaster-proof’, communities, areas which merit investment include supporting active citizens, new (digital) ways of community engagement, transforming formal organizations, alignment with the (local) context and applying knowledge in the field of health promotion in new ways, focussing on learning and co-creation with citizen initiatives.