Primary Health Care Research & Development

Development

Community participation in primary care in Ireland: the need for implementation research

Rachel McEvoya1 c1 and Anne MacFarlanea2a3

a1 Health Service Executive, Galway, Ireland

a2 Lecturer, Primary Care, National University of Galway, Ireland

a3 Professor, Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

Abstract

There are now several decades of history of community participation in health, with significant international evidence to suggest that there is much to be gained by primary health services and disadvantaged communities working in partnership.

In this paper we provide an overview of community participation in primary care, establishing the policy context in which a recent ‘Joint Initiative on Community Participation in Primary Health Care’ was developed in Ireland. This Initiative was designed to support the involvement of disadvantaged communities and groups in the development of primary health care services at local level.

An independent formative evaluation of the Joint Initiative took place between September 2009 and April 2010. We present a summary of key findings from this evaluation. We pay particular attention to the issue of sustaining community participation in newly developed Primary Care Teams (PCTs) in the current and changing economic climate, an issue considered crucial if the documented positive impacts of the Joint Initiative are to be maintained and the potential for health gains in the longer term are to be realised.

We then argue that the Joint Initiative referred to in this paper clearly provides a strong prototype for community participation in PCTs in Ireland. We also ask whether it can be replicated across all PCTs in the country and embedded as a core part of thinking and everyday health care. We highlight the need for research to build knowledge about the ways in which innovations such as this can be embedded into ongoing, routine healthcare practice. This research agenda will have relevance for policy makers, practitioners and evaluators in Ireland and other healthcare jurisdictions.

(Received August 09 2011)

(Revised December 06 2011)

(Accepted February 26 2012)

(Online publication April 30 2012)

Key words

  • community;
  • implementation research;
  • participation;
  • policy;
  • primary health care
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