Beyond command and control: A rapid review of meaningful community-engaged responses to COVID-19

Glob Public Health. 2021 Aug-Sep;16(8-9):1439-1453. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2021.1900316. Epub 2021 Mar 18.


Responses to COVID-19 have included top-down, command-and-control measures, laissez-faire approaches, and bottom-up, community-driven solidarity and support, reflecting long-standing contradictions around how people and populations are imagined in public health-as a 'problem' to be managed, as 'free agents' who make their own choices, or as a potential 'solution' to be engaged and empowered for comprehensive public health. In this rapid review, we examine community-engaged responses that move beyond risk communication and instead meaningfully integrate communities into decision-making and multi-sectoral action on various dimensions of the response to COVID-19. Based on a rapid, global review of 42 case studies of diverse forms of substantive community engagement in response to COVID-19, this paper identifies promising models of effective community-engaged responses and highlights the factors enabling or disabling these responses. The paper reflects on the ways in which these community-engaged responses contribute to comprehensive approaches and address social determinants and rights, within dynamics of relational power and inequality, and how they are sometimes able to take advantage of the ruptures and uncertainties of a new pandemic to refashion some of these dynamics.

Keywords: COVID-19; Community; engagement; participation; public health; rights; social determinants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Community Participation*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics* / prevention & control