Community engagement and vulnerability in infectious diseases: A systematic review and qualitative analysis of the literature

Jacob Osborne*, John Paget, Tamara Giles-Vernick, Ruth Kutalek, David Napier, Christos Baliatsas, Michel Dückers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
143 Downloads (Pure)


The global response to infectious diseases has seen a renewed interest in the use of community engagement to support research and relief efforts. From a perspective rooted in the social sciences, the concept of vulnerability offers an especially useful analytical frame for pursuing community engagement in a variety of contexts. However, few have closely examined the concept of vulnerability in community engagement efforts, leading to a need to better understand the various theories that underline the connections between the two. This literature review searched four databases (covering a total of 537 papers), resulting in 15 studies that analyze community engagement using a framing of vulnerability, broadly defined, in the context of an infectious disease, prioritizing historical and structural context and the many ways of constituting communities. The review identified historical and structural factors such as trust in the health system, history of political marginalization, various forms of racism and discrimination, and other aspects of vulnerability that are part and parcel of the main challenges faced by communities. The review found that studies using vulnerability within community engagement share some important characteristics (e.g., focus on local history and structural factors) and identified a few theoretical avenues from the social sciences which integrate a vulnerability-informed approach in community engagement. Finally, the review proposes an approach that brings together the concepts of vulnerability and community engagement, prioritizing participation, empowerment, and intersectoral collaboration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114246
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Sept-2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Community engagement and vulnerability in infectious diseases: A systematic review and qualitative analysis of the literature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this