Conducting Qualitative Research in Primary Health Care Settings: Researchers’ Insights on Barriers and Facilitators

Abstract

Periods of economic recession pose increasing risks for the deterioration of populations’ mental health, influencing access to care and amplifying social inequalities in health. In Portugal, primary health care represents the first line of action in the National Health Service. Aiming to understand the consequences of the economic recession on mental health, we conducted a qualitative study in three primary health care centers. Sites were selected based on a geographical delimitation of municipalities most affected by the economic recession and the socioeconomic typology of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area. Participants included primary health care users and health professionals, both key stakeholders in delivery of care. Focus groups and semi-structured interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of users and professionals, respectively. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and thematically analyzed. This case study focuses on the decision-making behind the study design, with a particular focus on strategies for data collection, difficulties in the field, and lessons learnt from this process. Planning procedures, recruitment, and the importance of establishing partnerships in the field will be critically appraised and discussed.

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