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Ann Fam Med. 2007 Nov-Dec;5(6):557-60.

Promoting participatory research by family physicians.

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McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


In the past, researchers have inadvertently caused stigmatization of various populations, first by not involving community members and then through publishing negative findings. In contrast, participatory research, which is based on a partnership between researchers and those affected by the issue being studied, promotes the voice of those being researched. This essay highlights key principles, processes, complexities, and challenges of participatory research and outlines when participatory research is not appropriate. It also reflects on the training and skills of family physicians that make them especially suited to participatory research. Family physicians have established clinical partnerships with their patients and sometimes entire communities, are trained in patient-centered care-a good basis for community centered research-and are accustomed to working with uncertainty. In addition, they are frequently pragmatic, interested in questions arising from their patients and communities, and likely to respond well to community requests. The main challenges to participatory research are lack of funding, expertise, and time, which may improve as more funding agencies and universities support this approach to research.

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