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Open Access Research article

Using consecutive Rapid Participatory Appraisal studies to assess, facilitate and evaluate health and social change in community settings

Colin S Brown1, Simon Lloyd2 and Scott A Murray3*

Author Affiliations

1 Research Fellow, Primary Palliative Care Research Group, Division of Community Health Sciences: General Practice Section, University of Edinburgh, EH8 9DX, UK

2 Research Fellow, Primary Palliative Care Research Group, Division of Community Health Sciences: General Practice Section, University of Edinburgh, EH8 9DX, UK

3 Clinical Reader, Primary Palliative Care Research Group, Division of Community Health Sciences: General Practice Section, University of Edinburgh, EH8 9DX, UK

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:68  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-68

Published: 15 March 2006

Abstract

Background

To investigate how a relatively socio-economically deprived community's needs have changed over time, assess which recommendations from an earlier assessment were implemented and sustained, and consider whether serial Rapid Participatory Appraisal is an effective health research tool that can promote community development and has utility in assessing longitudinal change.

Methods

Rapid Participatory Appraisal involves communities in identifying and challenging their own health-related needs. Information on ten health and social aspects was collated from existing documentation, neighbourhood observations, and interviews with a range of residents and key informants, providing a composite picture of the community's structure, needs and services.

Results

The perceived needs after 10 years encompassed a wide construct of health, principally the living environment, housing, and lack of finance. Most identified upstream determinants of health rather than specific medical conditions as primary concerns. After the initial Rapid Participatory Appraisal many interviewees took the recommendations forward, working to promote a healthier environment and advocate for local resources. Interventions requiring support from outwith the community were largely not sustained.

Conclusion

Rapid Participatory Appraisal proved valuable in assessing long-term change. The community's continuing needs were identified, but they could not facilitate and sustain change without the strategic support of key regional and national agencies. Many repeatedly voiced concerns lay outwith local control: local needs assessment must be supported at higher levels to be effective.