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The words we use to talk about working with people and communities

Explains the different terminology that we use when talking about working with people and communities within the health and care sector.
Start with People petal.  Petals are:  Inform, Consult, Engage, Co-design and Co-production.

Throughout this course we’ll generally use the phrase working in partnership with people and communities.

It is a phrase that is used to cover a variety of ways we can involve people in decisions around healthcare. Many of these are in the petal diagram, above, from engagement to co-production.

These terms often overlap, mean different things to different people, and sometimes have a technical or legal definition too.


By people we mean everyone of all ages, their representatives, relatives, and unpaid carers – whether or not they use or access health and care services and support.


Communities are groups of people that have something in common or that they are connected by, like where they live, how they identify or by shared interests. Communities exist at all geographical levels and they can be loosely or tightly defined by their members.

It’s important to be aware of particular social and cultural ways that communities work, and to use this knowledge when collaborating with them.

Lots of the factors that create health and wellbeing happen at community level. Factors include social connections, having a voice in decisions that affect a community, and addressing health inequalities.

Health inequalities

Health inequalities is a term for the variation or gap in health and wellbeing that different communities experience. These variations can have significant consequences, including reductions in life expectancy and quality of life.

We’ll explore health inequalities further in week two.

Multiple communities

We also need to be aware that most of us are part of lots of communities, and we don’t tend to fit neatly into boxes.

For example, we tend to talk about racial inequality as separate from the inequality that is connected to gender, class, sexuality, immigrant status, and the place that we live. Separating people into only one category misses that we are often affected by lots of different experiences and are part of lots of communities.

We can also face discrimination because of more than one part of who we are, and we can’t simply add up the barriers we face to see how much inequality we experience.

For example, the amount of inequality that a person who is black and disabled faces may be bigger than adding together the amount of inequality they face as a black person and the inequality they face being a disabled person.


You might hear or see people use the term asset-based. This is a way of describing working with what an individual or community already has to offer – their strengths – rather than focusing on what is absent – their weaknesses.


Co-production is often used when talking generally about working with people and communities. But co-production also has a specific meaning around a service or product that is created and delivered by different sets of people working as equal decision-makers.

It is not the only or necessarily the best way to involve people in the work you do.

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Working with People and Communities to Improve Health Outcomes

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