Whose reality counts? Participation and coproduction in global health research

Activity: Disseminating Research (including talks, presentations, public lectures, public engagement, outreach and knowledge exchange)Invited talk


Primary health care centralises community participation as a necessary component of achieving health for all. Despite normative support many health authorities lack the means to consult communities on their experiences, needs and priorities, and the capacities to use this information in resource allocation. Drawing on participatory action research in rural South Africa and social empowerment approaches in northeast Scotland, this presentation describes the theory and practice of patient-centred research in diverse country contexts. In South Africa, local alliances have been established to generate new knowledge on community-nominated priorities of alcohol and drug abuse and lack of clean safe water, and there is multi-sectoral interest and commitment for research that routinely connects communities and providers in deliberative decision-making processes. In Scotland and the UK community participation is expanding with policy and legislative shifts including the Community Empowerment Act mandating coproduction and the development of formalised participatory spaces. The examples illustrate the potential of participatory methodologies to reveal key features and drivers of health inequalities and to capture impacts that extend beyond individuals to families, communities, societies and economies. Close involvement of affected communities expands the capabilities of conventional research methods to depict the true nature of health inequalities. Explanation is necessary but not sufficient however: centralising the lived experience of those for whom health inequalities are most directly relevant implies the use of knowledge for action. In this sense, health services can be supported to be more relevant to local needs and situations through processes that acknowledge and build connections between bottom-up innovation and top-down direction, involving decision-makers and motivating actors to behave in ways that they may not do otherwise.
Period24 Jan 2019
Event titleInstitute of Applied Health Research (IAHR) Seminar Series
Event typeSeminar
LocationBirmingham, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational