Participatory health research within a prison setting: a qualitative analysis of 'Paragraphs of passion'

Glob Health Promot. 2015 Dec;22(4):48-55. doi: 10.1177/1757975914547922. Epub 2014 Oct 13.


The purpose of this research was to engage, empower and enhance the health and well-being of incarcerated women. The integration of primary health care, community-based participatory research, a settings approach to health promotion, and transformative action research guided the design of this study. A partnership between incarcerated women who became peer-researchers, correctional staff, and academic researchers facilitated the equitable contribution of expertise and decision-making by all partners. The study was conducted in a short sentence (two years or less), minimum/medium security Canadian women's correctional centre. Of the approximately 200 women that joined the research team, 115 participated in writing a 'paragraph of passion' while incarcerated between November, 2005 and August, 2007. Participatory, inductive qualitative, narrative and content analysis were used to illuminate four themes: expertise, transformation, building self-esteem, as well as access and support. The women organized monthly health forums in the prison to share their new knowledge and life experience with other incarcerated women, correctional staff, academics, and community members, and in doing so have built bridges and relationships, some of which have lasted to the present day.

Keywords: empowerment; health and well-being; participatory processes; partnership.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Community-Based Participatory Research*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Prisoners
  • Prisons*
  • Qualitative Research