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Participation in voluntary and community organisations in the United Kingdom and the influences on the self‐management of long‐term conditions

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Voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) have health benefits for those who attend and are viewed as having the potential to support long‐term condition management. However, existing community‐level understandings of participation do not explain the involvement with VCOs at an individual level, or the nature of support, which may elicit health benefits. Framing active participation as ‘doing and experiencing’, the aim of this qualitative study was to explore why people with long‐term vascular conditions join VCOs, maintain their membership and what prevents participation. Twenty participants, self‐diagnosed as having diabetes, chronic heart disease or chronic kidney disease, were purposefully sampled and recruited from a range of VCOs in the North West of England identified from a mapping of local organisations. In semi‐structured interviews, we explored the nature of their participation. Analysis was thematic and iterative involving a continual reflection on the data. People gave various reasons for joining groups. These included health and well‐being, the need for social contact and pursuing a particular hobby. Barriers to participation included temporal and spatial barriers and those associated with group dynamics. Members maintained their membership on the basis of an identity and sense of belonging to the group, developing close relationships within it and the availability of support and trust. Participants joined community groups often in response to a health‐related event. Our findings demonstrate the ways in which the social contact associated with continued participation in VCOs is seen as helping with long‐term condition management. Interventions designed at improving chronic illness management might usefully consider the role of VCOs.
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Keywords: long‐term condition management; participation; social networks; social support; voluntary and community organisations

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2015

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