This study, which took place in the U.S, may be of interest to Mesh readers interested in the power of 'community voice' on decision-making in health policy and research.
Specifically, it looks at the extent of influence qualitative data have on the decision-making process determining community health prioritization. The researcher’s attempt to understand the determinants of decision-making around the significant health needs by looking at 16 community health needs assessments. The study drew on community based participatory research as well as key informant interviews, surveys and focus groups. Findings showed that health concerns stemming from qualitative sources were more likely to be selected as a significant need, particularly those discussed within focus groups. The findings highlight the importance of focus groups as vehicles for creating engagement between the community and healthcare providers, a sense of community and for generating community constructed knowledge (which they note gains greater traction within the wider community). Qualitative data revealed concerns, which were not revealed through the analysis of quantitative assessment data. They also revealed concerns which were community specific helping such as, the fear that a hospital might close. This understanding of problems through drawing on community subjective experience was recognised as fundamental to generating appropriate strategies to target the concerns.
This has Implications for healthcare research design and public health research design in general. It evidences that within the context of this study community engagement can hold sway in decision-making processes and that this can inform and strengthen policy in a positive way.
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