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Using Social Network Analysis to Measure Community Ownership in Participatory Health Research

By: Edited by: Published: 2020 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases: Medicine and Health
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Participatory health research (PHR) is an approach to the co-creation of new knowledge to improve health, health services, and systems, while addressing issues of equity, social justice, and self-determination. A key component of PHR is that it places its beneficiaries—those for whom the outcomes are intended—at the heart of all research decision-making. However, many, if not most, PHR projects are initiated by academic researchers, rather than by community, patients, or other members of the public. How then, is ownership of the research process transferred from outside academics to inside stakeholders? To observe and measure this transfer of ownership, we followed the trajectory of a community-based participatory intervention study aimed at increasing active transportation to school within an Indigenous community in Canada. Social network analysis (SNA) provides a set of tools for examining the way opinions, resources, knowledge, and behaviors spread within and between groups of interconnected individuals. SNA is particularly adept at identifying knowledge leadership within groups and tracking how this may shift over time and thus provides an excellent methodology for examining transfer of ownership in PHR. This study will introduce SNA and some key individual- and network-level measures that can help in the development, evaluation, and maintenance of participatory research processes. We will provide insight for choosing a design appropriate for your specific project; guidance for sampling, data collection, and analysis; and thoughts on strengthening your results and sharing your findings. Finally, we will briefly touch upon designing structural interventions to optimize how things spread through your network.

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Social network analysis

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