Using participatory learning & action (PLA) research techniques for inter-stakeholder dialogue in primary healthcare: An analysis of stakeholders’ experiences




van Weel, Chris
de Brún, Tomas
O’Reilly-de Brún, Mary
Weel-Baumgarten, Evelyn van
Burns, N.
Dowrick, Christopher
Lionis, C.
O'Donnell, Catherine
Mair, Frances
Papadakaki, Maria

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BioMed Central Ltd.


Background In order to be effective, primary healthcare must understand the health needs, values and expectations of the population it serves. Recent research has shown that the involvement of service users and other stakeholders and gathering information on their perspectives can contribute positively to many aspects of primary healthcare. Participatory methodologies have the potential to support engagement and dialogue between stakeholders from academic, migrant community and health service settings. This paper focuses on a specific participatory research methodology, Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) in which all stakeholders are regarded as equal partners and collaborators in research. Our research question for this paper was: "Does the application of PLA lead to meaningful engagement of all stakeholders, and if so, what elements contribute to a positive and productive inter-stakeholder dialogue?". Methods We explored the use of PLA in RESTORE, a European FP7-funded project, during 2011– 2015 in 5 countries: Austria, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK. The objective of RESTORE was to investigate and support the implementation of guidelines and training initiatives (G/TIs) to enhance communication in cross-cultural primary care consultations with migrants. Seventy eight stakeholders (migrants, interpreters, doctors, nurses and others – see Table 2) participated in a total of 62 PLA sessions (discussions, activities, evaluations) of approximately 2–3 h’ duration across the five sites. During the fieldwork, qualitative data were generated about stakeholders’ experiences of engagement in this dialogue, by means of various methods including participatory evaluations, researchers’ fieldwork reports and researcher interviews. These were analysed following the principles of thematic analysis. Results Stakeholders involved in PLA inter-stakeholder dialogues reported a wide range of positive experiences of engagement, and very few negative experiences. A positive atmosphere during early research sessions helped to create a sense of safety and trust. This enabled stakeholders from very different backgrounds, with different social status and power, to offer their perspectives in a way that led to enhanced learning in the group – they learned with and from each other. This fostered shifts in understanding – for example, a doctor changed her view on interpreted consultations because of the input of the migrant service-users. Conclusion PLA successfully promoted stakeholder involvement in meaningful and productive inter-stakeholder dialogues. This makes it an attractive approach to enhance the further development of health research partnerships to advance primary healthcare.





Research Involvement and Engagement


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