The value and challenges of participatory research: strengthening its practice

Annu Rev Public Health. 2008:29:325-50. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.29.091307.083824.


The increasing use of participatory research (PR) approaches to address pressing public health issues reflects PR's potential for bridging gaps between research and practice, addressing social and environmental justice and enabling people to gain control over determinants of their health. Our critical review of the PR literature culminates in the development of an integrative practice framework that features five essential domains and provides a structured process for developing and maintaining PR partnerships, designing and implementing PR efforts, and evaluating the intermediate and long-term outcomes of descriptive, etiological, and intervention PR studies. We review the empirical and nonempirical literature in the context of this practice framework to distill the key challenges and added value of PR. Advances to the practice of PR over the next decade will require establishing the effectiveness of PR in achieving health outcomes and linking PR practices, processes, and core elements to health outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Community Participation*
  • Community-Institutional Relations*
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Health Services Research / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Public Health / methods*
  • Research Design
  • Social Justice