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Community Engagement

NHH has a long history of engaging the communities it serves and we have learned first-hand that diverse voices lead to better decisions.

Like all public hospitals in Ontario, NHH has an obligation to meet a broad range of accountabilities from many stakeholders, both within the community served and with the government bodies that administer funding. Today, NHH defines community engagement as: the process of collectively connecting with the many stakeholders we serve or partner with through intentional methods for the purpose of sharing information and exchanging ideas to develop and/or improve policies, programs and practices and meet our accountabilities.

In recent years, NHH has worked hard to continuously expand opportunities to engage. We do so along a spectrum, ranging from “informing” to “empowering", as different opportunities and objectives call for different forms of engagement.

Community Engagement Frameworks

To some extent, we can never engage or communicate enough, but two Frameworks guide our work and help us to focus our efforts where our communities tell us they are needed the most.

The first, our Community Engagement Framework, was developed in 2011 and updated in 2015. It sets out an overview of our understanding of how sincere and timely engagement will assist in meeting patient care expectations within the community, and our accountabilities within the broader system in which we operate. By sharing this Framework, following it and improving it as we move forward together, solid, sustainable relationships will continue to grow between NHH, our partners and the many stakeholders we serve.

More recently, our Patient- and Family-Centred Care Framework, developed in 2016, explains how we operationalize our commitment to patient-centred care.

Community Engagement Councils and Projects

Three particular examples stand out among our many experiences with community and patient engagement

The NHH Citizen’s Advisory Panel, created in 2009, was anchored in three principles that guide our community engagement activities today, including proactively seeking input, maintaining transparency through dialogue and reflecting the diversity of the community we serve. The Panel, independent of NHH’s Board of Directors, was a new way for us to work with the community to solve the difficult problem of service prioritization. Through a thorough and extensive process, the Panel ranked our services into “core” and “non-core” and informed our Community Engagement Framework and related Board Policy. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care praised the process for being innovative.

For more on this innovative effort, and the related documents, see the Shared Challenge, Shared Solution microsite that supported it.


The Northumberland Partners Advancing Transitions in Healthcare project, or Northumberland PATH, funded by The Change Foundation and formed in 2012, directly demonstrated the value of involving patient and family experience to drive health system and hospital improvement strategies. This project was another first for Ontario as it was a local system-wide venture that brought together 12 health care organizations and patient advocacy groups. Over the course of several years, we worked together to improve experiences and transitions for seniors in the Northumberland community. The PATH project demonstrated an interactive, innovative and patient-centred approach to health care provision and we take the lessons learned from PATH forward in engaging our community, patients and their families.

For background on our community’s PATH work and outcomes, please see http://www.changefoundation.ca/charting-a-new-path


NHH’s Patient and Family Advisory Council is the most recent example of proactive patient and family engagement at NHH. Formed in 2016, the Council has evolved out of NHH's past community and patient engagement work highlighted above, and involves patients and/or their loved ones in quarterly meetings as a group as well as monthly representation on service-specific Quality and Practice Councils and other ad hoc projects. Now active in three ways (as equal partners on all of NHH's core Quality and Practice Committees, on departmental assignments, and on special projects, corporate and PFAC-driven) the PFAC--guided by a co-designed vision and purpose--is a key part of decision making throughout the hospital, working to continuously improve the experience of individuals who receive care at NHH, and their families. 

Click here for more on our: Patient and Family Advisory Council