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Health Res Policy Syst. 2010 Nov 18;8:34. doi: 10.1186/1478-4505-8-34.

Status, challenges and facilitators of consumer involvement in Australian health and medical research.

Author information

1
Centre for Health Research & Psycho-oncology (CHeRP), Cancer Council NSW, The University of Newcastle & Hunter Medical Research Institute, Callaghan NSW, Australia, 2308. carla.saunders@uon.edu.au.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The emergent international practice of involving consumers in health research is driven, in part, by the growing share of health research that can only be applied in and emerge from knowledge that is shaped by human values and societal contexts. This is the first investigation of its kind to identify the current prevalence, challenges, enabling factors and range of approaches to consumer involvement in health and medical research in Australia.

METHODS:

A nation-wide survey of research funding organisations and organisations that conduct research was performed during 2008-2009.

RESULTS:

Marked variation in consumer involvement experience and perceptions exists between research funders and researchers. Research funders were over eight times more likely than organisations conducting research to involve consumers in identifying research needs and prioritising research topics. Across both groups, practical and time constraints were reported as key challenges to involving consumers, while guidelines on consumer involvement and evidence of effect were the most important potential enablers. More than a third of research organisations indicated that when consumer involvement was a condition of research funding, it was an important facilitator of involvement.

CONCLUSION:

It is no longer simply enough to keep society informed of important scientific breakthroughs. If Australian health research is to take into account important social contexts and consequences, it must involve consumers. A set of minimum consumer involvement standards and associated guidelines, that are agreed and routinely adopted, could ensure that consumers and the Australian community they represent, are given an opportunity to shed light on experiences and local circumstance, and express views and concerns relevant to health research.

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