The contribution of peer research to the evaluation of complex public health interventions: examples from two community empowerment projects in the UK | BMC Public Health

Table 1 summarizes the key points of the eighteen peer research projects, which are described below in terms of building evaluation skills, scope of data collection, and questions explored by the peer research .

Strengthening (assessment) of skills and capacities

Reflections from peer researchers suggest that conducting peer research has helped build evaluation and research skills within individual LC and LP projects, as well as providing data on other related outcomes to the theory of change.

Peer researchers described the acquisition of research skills through participation in peer research. Peer research has also strengthened research capacity within projects. In LC3–1, LC5–3 and LC7–3, projects reported feeling encouraged to do more research after participating in peer research. In LC2–3, the community organization leading the project had commissioned external research that involves research by peers, based on their experience during the LC program.

Peer research also seemed to facilitate some of the short-term changes envisioned by the LC and LP programs. Peer-researchers reported gaining confidence, aspirations, and new interpersonal and technical skills through their participation in peer-research projects. In LC-1, for example, young people were trained by a professional filmmaker on how to use digital cameras, take pictures and organize an exhibition. Peer researchers said they generally enjoy coming together to design and conduct research. Peer researchers at the LC5–3 and LC7–3 levels said peer research was useful and engaging. In two projects (LC4–1, LC2–2), gains included increased knowledge of their local areas and an understanding of residents’ experiences, which would help inform their project activities.

Some peer researchers did not feel prepared for the activity. This can be attributed to the lack of time devoted to developing the skills of peer researchers before the start of projects. For example, the peer research training was condensed from the two scheduled sessions into a single session due to scheduling issues. In LC Phase 3, co-analysis workshops could not take place due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Other peer researchers expressed frustration with the slowness of peer research activities (LC6–3) and the lack of change resulting from peer research (LC1–3).

The scope of data collection

The “reach” of peer research projects refers to the number and breadth of peer researchers who participated in each project and who contributed as respondents to the data collection. The number of peer researchers per project ranged from three to ten, with an average of six. They were all local residents and were usually already heavily involved in their respective LP or LC projects as members of steering/advisory groups. Peer researchers often already contributed to the overall assessment as participants in the case study through their active roles in the LC and LP projects. Demographic information about peer researchers (e.g., age, ethnicity) was not routinely recorded as part of the process, although peer researchers in three projects (LC1–1, LC7–3, and LP4 ) were young people and in two projects (LC2–3 and LC2–3) the peer researchers were all women.

In terms of scope, all but one peer research project (LC1–3) used convenience sampling techniques, such as interviewing friends and neighbors or conducting surveys where local residents were already congregating (eg, community centers). In total, the peer research projects engaged 687 people as respondents, including 248 in the qualitative methods (ranging from five to thirty-five for the individual projects) and 439 survey respondents (ranging from ten to sixty- sixteen for individual projects). Respondents were mostly local residents. One project (LC4–1) also involved local community asset managers. Another (LP2-1) focused on a community of experience rather than a geography (as was common in most LC and LP projects) and involved both community members (people with disabilities, their families/caregivers) and non-members (e.g. “seaside traders”). Respondents were also mostly individuals who were not already actively involved in the LC or LP projects or their respective evaluations, indicating the broader scope of peer research. Respondent demographic information is inconsistent across projects – it was not collected or not reported in project reports. The LC7–3 peer researchers, for example, were very convinced that collecting demographic information was an invasion of privacy and that respondents would feel uncomfortable giving out this information. The reasons why it was not collected in other projects are unclear.

Issues explored

The eighteen peer research projects focused on fourteen distinct topics (see Table 1). The most researched topics were residents’ involvement in community activities (LC3–1, LC3–2, ​​LC5–2, LC4–2, LP3, LP5), residents’ experience of Covid “lockdown” -19 (LC1–3, LC2–3, LC5–3, LC6–3) and the experience of particular groups of inhabitants living in the neighborhood (LC1–1, LC2–1, LP4). Other research topics reflected more specific local issues, such as perceptions of proposed regeneration of the estate (LC3-1), value of a food bank (LC5-2), or beach/front accessibility of sea for people with disabilities (LP2-1).

Mapped against the ToC of the LC and LP programs, the eighteen projects revealed information about the context in which the LC and LP projects took place. This included such things as local housing conditions (LC1–1, LC3–1), local feelings of connection (LC1–1, LC2–2, LP2), availability of local resources and community assets (LP1– 1, LP3, 1, LC4–1, LP4–1) and mental health stigma in communities (LC2–1). Peer research undertaken during LC Phase 3 provided insight into the local ‘containment’ experience (LC1–3, LC2–3, LC5–3, LC6–3). Twelve peer research projects also produced information that could be linked to LP and LC ‘mechanisms of change’ – the actions of LC and LP projects to create change in local areas. Very often these were barriers and enablers to participation in LC and LP project activities and community activities in general (LC3–1, LC3–2, ​​LC5–2, LC4–2, LP3 , LP5). Other projects provided information on residents’ previous or other experiences with community engagement and collective action (LC4–1, LC7–3), which provided information to inform project action. Information on digital exclusion/inclusion during Covid-19 (LC1–3, LC2–3, LC5–3, LC6–3) could also inform future mechanisms of change.

In terms of how topics were researched, the most frequently used research method (not = 8) were surveys, either delivered online, in written form, or by telephone or face-to-face as a structured interview. The other methods used were semi-structured interviews (not = 4) and photovoice [24] (not = 3). Three projects used mixed methods: semi-structured interviews and a survey (not = 2), and semi-structured interviews, feedback from events, documentary research and photovoice (not = 1). The research methods used in the peer research were very often tailored to the characteristics and needs of the residents. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in several languages ​​(LC2–1, LC2–2), the use of photovoice enabled young people to be involved (LC1–1, LP4–1) and surveys were carried out in places where residents were already congregating rather than simply. be online or by mail (LC2–1, LC5–2, LC3–2, ​​LC4–2).

The contribution of peer research to the evaluation of complex public health interventions: examples from two community empowerment projects in the UK | BMC Public Health

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to top