Opportunities and challenges in public and community engagement: the connected for cognitive health in later life (CHILL) project
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Lee, C., Mellor, T., Dilworth-Anderson, P., Young, T., Brayne, C., & Lafortune, L. (2018). Opportunities and challenges in public and community engagement: the connected for cognitive health in later life (CHILL) project. [Journal Article]. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40900-018-0127-x
Plain English summary Two goals of public health research are to understand what causes disease and ill health, and what can be done to prevent it. To develop appropriate and effective actions, we need to know what resources are available to communities, and what are the beliefs and values that influence behaviour. This means that research needs to be carried out close to the people it affects, to better understand context and environment, as well as people’s understandings and interpretations of health and health risk. Connected for Cognitive Health in Later Life (CHILL) was a project developed to test whether engaging local residents in research might be a good way of firstly: raising awareness of research findings in the community; and secondly, affecting mid-life behaviours in favour of ageing well and reducing risk of dementia. We investigated perceptions of ageing and how to age ‘well’ in a town whose population health is ranked worse than the regional average. Project activities involved: identifying and engaging with stakeholders; conducting ‘mini’ street interviews; holding community workshops; and taking part in a large community event. This paper describes the process of carrying out the research, and presents a flavour of some of the information captured on context and local understanding of dementia risk. It then goes on to discuss in more depth some of the challenges in attempting to involve people in shaping research and intervention development, before offering some conclusions and suggested next steps for researchers. Abstract Background Identifying risk of disease and ill health, and developing prevention strategies, are key objectives in public health research. However, poor understanding of the impact of local context, including cultural and ethnic differences, challenges our ability to develop actions that are acceptable and meaningful to local communities. This suggests a need for research embedded in sub-populations, seeking to better understand context, understanding and interpretation of health and health risk. Methods Against a backdrop of wide inequalities in health, the Connected for Cognitive Health In Later Life (CHILL) project began work in a locality with worse than regional average health outcomes aiming to co-develop a project investigating perceptions of ageing and how to age ‘well’. Another goal was to test the potential for using Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) as a way of communicating research knowledge, raising awareness and understanding amongst community members of mid-life risk factors for developing dementia. A four-part scoping study was embarked on, including: stakeholder identification and engagement; street interviews; community workshops; and a wider public engagement event. Results Whilst the project was able to stimulate interest, gain involvement from a small group of residents, and successfully engage members of the public, it was not possible, within the relatively short timescale of the scoping project, to achieve the depth of community involvement necessary to co-design and seek additional funding for collaborative research activities. Conclusions A number of challenges were encountered in scoping CBPR on this particular topic and location. Potential explanations include lack of ‘readiness’ or ‘capacity’ amongst the local population, and a very limited timescale for the scoping research to adapt and respond to this. This has significant implications in terms of time and effort necessary to build infrastructure to support research partnerships if researchers wish to engage successfully with members of the public on population health in the future.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40900-018-0127-x
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.32850
Rights Holder: The Author(s).