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1.  Examining the links between community participation and health outcomes: a review of the literature 
Health Policy and Planning  2014;29(Suppl 2):ii98-ii106.
As a key principle of Primary Health Care (PHC) and Health Systems Reform, community participation has a prominent place in the current global dialogue. Participation is not only promoted in the context of provision and utilization of health services. Advocates also highlight participation as a key factor in the wider context of the importance of social determinants of health and health as a human right. However, the evidence that directly links community participation to improved health status is not strong. Its absence continues to be a barrier for governments, funding agencies and health professionals to promote community participation. The purpose of this article is to review research seeking to link community participation with improved health status outcomes programmes. It updates a review undertaken by the author in 2009. The search includes published articles in the English language and examines the evidence of in the context of health care delivery including services and promotion where health professionals have defined the community’s role. The results show that in most studies community participation is defined as the intervention seeking to identify a direct causal link between participation and improved health status modeled on Randomized Control studies (RCT). The majority of studies show it is not possible to examine the link because there is no standard definition of ‘community’ and ‘participation’. Where links are found, they are situation-specific and are unpredictable and not generalizable. In the discussion, an alternative research framework is proposed arguing that community participation is better understood as a process. Once concrete interventions are identified (i.e. improved birth outcomes) then the processes producing improved health status outcomes can be examined. These processes may include and can lead to community uptake, ownership and sustainability for health improvements. However, more research is needed to ensure their validity.
doi:10.1093/heapol/czu076
PMCID: PMC4202913  PMID: 25274645
Community participation; evidence-based policy; health care reform; health outcomes
2.  Assessing participation in a community-based health planning and services programme in Ghana 
Background
Community participation is increasingly seen as a pre-requisite for successful health service uptake. It is notoriously difficult to assess participation and little has been done to advance tools for the assessment of community participation. In this paper we illustrate an approach that combines a ‘social psychology of participation’ (theory) with ‘spider-grams’ (method) to assess participation and apply it to a Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) programme in rural Ghana.
Methods
We draw on data from 17 individual in-depth interviews, two focus group discussions and a community conversation with a mix of service users, providers and community health committee members. It was during the community conversation that stakeholders collectively evaluated community participation in the CHPS programme and drew up a spider-gram.
Results
Thematic analysis of our data shows that participation was sustained through the recognition and use of community resources, CHPS integration with pre-existing community structures, and alignment of CHPS services with community interests. However, male dominance and didactic community leadership and management styles undermined real opportunities for broad-based community empowerment, particularly of women, young people and marginalised men.
Conclusion
We conclude that combining the ‘spider-gram’ tool and the ‘social psychology of participation’ framework provide health professionals with a useful starting point for assessing community participation and developing recommendations for more participatory and empowering health care programmes.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-233
PMCID: PMC3733901  PMID: 23803140
Programme Evaluation; Spider-grams; Community Participation; Primary Health Care; Health Planning; Ghana
3.  A renewed focus on primary health care: revitalize or reframe? 
The year 2008 celebrated 30 years of Primary Health Care (PHC) policy emerging from the Alma Ata Declaration with publication of two key reports, the World Health Report 2008 and the Report of the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. Both reports reaffirmed the relevance of PHC in terms of its vision and values in today's world. However, important challenges in terms of defining PHC, equity and empowerment need to be addressed.
This article takes the form of a commentary reviewing developments in the last 30 years and discusses the future of this policy. Three challenges are put forward for discussion (i) the challenge of moving away from a narrow technical bio-medical paradigm of health to a broader social determinants approach and the need to differentiate primary care from primary health care; (ii) The challenge of tackling the equity implications of the market oriented reforms and ensuring that the role of the State in the provision of welfare services is not further weakened; and (iii) the challenge of finding ways to develop local community commitments especially in terms of empowerment.
These challenges need to be addressed if PHC is to remain relevant in today's context. The paper concludes that it is not sufficient to revitalize PHC of the Alma Ata Declaration but it must be reframed in light of the above discussion.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-6-13
PMCID: PMC2919514  PMID: 20673329

Results 1-3 (3)