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Partnerships and participation in conducting poverty-related health research

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 October 2006

Linda Reutter
Affiliation:
Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Alberta, Canada
Miriam J Stewart
Affiliation:
Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, and Scientific Director, Institute of Gender and Health, Canadian Institute of Health Research, Alberta, Canada
Kim Raine
Affiliation:
Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics, and Centre for Health Promotion Studies, University of Alberta, Alberta, Canada
Deanna L Williamson
Affiliation:
Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta, Alberta, Canada
Nicole Letourneau
Affiliation:
Faculty of Nursing and Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy, University of New Brunswick, Canada
Sharon McFall
Affiliation:
Boyle McCauley Health Centre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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Abstract

Partnerships and participation are important principles of primary health care and increasingly are advocated in poverty-related health research. These concepts were central to our study of low-income Canadians’ use of health-related services and supports. We created partnerships by including community members on the research team, establishing a community advisory committee, involving community agencies in recruitment and interviews, and obtaining stakeholder perspectives on the research findings. We fostered participation of low-income people by including their perspectives during the design and implementation of the study, reducing barriers for participation, and using peer interviewers. Despite the successes of these strategies for promoting partnerships and participation, challenges emerged in relation to maintaining involvement of stakeholders and ensuring adequate opportunities for research capacity building. Stakeholders and lowincome people identified policy and service delivery changes that would enhance accessibility to health-related services as well as potential barriers that influence change efforts. Participants emphasized the need to view poverty as ‘everyone’s business’, which necessitates participation and partnerships with people living in poverty, with service providers, and with policy influencers. Our findings suggest, however, that people living in poverty encounter barriers to participation, and that further efforts are needed to obtain their input in the development of programmes, services, and policies. We recommend that primary health care research include community partners on the research team, community advisory committees and perspectives of policy makers and service providers. Researchers require adequate funding to develop and maintain partnerships with stakeholders, to train and support vulnerable people in developing skills and confidence as active research participants and to communicate the research to relevant stakeholders. We also recommend that evaluation of the participatory process be built into the research design.

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Copyright
2005 Arnold
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