Are the potential benefits of a community-based participatory approach to public health research worth the potential cost?
Gibbs, Lisa, Gold, Lisa, Kulkens, Maree, Riggs, Elisha, Van Gemert, Caroline and Waters, Elizabeth 2008, Are the potential benefits of a community-based participatory approach to public health research worth the potential cost?, Just policy: a journal of Australian social policy, no. 47, pp. 54-59.
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Much of public health research is conducted in a community setting or is designed to target particular population groups. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is gaining recognition as good practice in studies of this type(Flicker et al 2007). Its merit is based on the inclusion of the community as active participants at all stages of the research process (Goodman 2006). The focus on justice and equity in this approach is seen to contribute to a range of additional potential research benefits including increased relevance and sustainability of interventions arising from the research ( Blumenthal 2004; Wallestein 2006) However, it is widely acknowledged that adoption of a consciously CBPR approach requires additional expertise. time and resources from researchers and from communities (Tanjasiri et al 2002; Massaro & Claiborne 2001; Israel et al 1998). Adoption of CBPR is also limited by existing infrastructures which are supportive of more· traditional models of research. Changes to professional development programs, funding guidelines and criteria. grant review processes and ethics requirements are needed to support increased application of this approach (Israel et al 2001). As all research resources are limited, the potential additional benefits offered by CBPR over and above a more traditional research approach need to be weighed against the potential additional costs involved. Changes to research infrastructure are unlikely to occur until the costs and benefits of a consciously CBPR approach as compared to a more traditional research approach can be demonstrated.
This is an exploratory paper that summarises the arguments put forward to date in relation to CBPR. A research case study and an evaluation framework are then used for a conceptual analysis of differences in the potential costs and benefits of the two approaches. Firstly, the paper describes the differences between traditional and consciously CBPR approaches. The reported benefits of CBPR are then outlined, followed by a discussion of the potential costs. Finally, the potential costs are compared to the potential benefits of using a CBPR approach, using a case study of existing research.
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