Participatory approaches to assessing the health needs of African and African-Caribbean communities

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Abstract:

Previous attempts to involve African and African-Caribbean communities in a city in north England in identifying and assessing their health needs have been largely unsuccessful. A comprehensive literature review highlighted that research on Africans and African-Caribbeans is limited and uneven, and dominated by studies focusing on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental health and blood disorders. Health information on these communities is largely based on immigrant mortality statistics derived from national datasets. This paper highlights how participatory approaches to community participation and engagement were used in the assessment of the health needs of culturally diverse minority communities as a means of reducing health disparities. The study sought to overcome the shortcomings of traditional techniques for health needs assessment by testing a novel method of rapid participatory appraisal using a triangulation approach to ensure that all perspectives were addressed. The research adopted a mixed-methods strategy comprising distinct phases: a comprehensive review of the literature, a qualitative needs assessment involving representatives of the African and African-Caribbean communities using meta-planning, and a review of health service provision. The approach used in the study was efficient, rapid and feasible for the African and African-Caribbean people to use in obtaining data from their peers. The findings showed a convergence between areas of need identified by health providers and community members in this appraisal, and between these results and other published literature. However, there was a divergence on the extent of change necessary, with institutional responses stressing alterations within existing systems, and community members recommending the establishment of targeted services for African and African-Caribbean communities run by ethnically matched staff.
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