Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care
REVIEW (Open Access)

Understanding the factors that make public participation effective in health policy and planning: a realist synthesis

Celso P. Pagatpatan A B and Paul R. Ward B C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Ateneo Center for Health Evidence, Action and Leadership (A-HEALS), Ateneo de Manila University, Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City 1604, Philippines.

B Discipline of Public Health, School of Health Sciences, Flinders University, Bedford Park, SA 5042, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: paul.ward@flinders.edu.au

Australian Journal of Primary Health 23(6) 516-530 https://doi.org/10.1071/PY16129
Submitted: 12 October 2016  Accepted: 24 March 2017   Published: 23 June 2017

Journal Compilation © La Trobe University 2017 Open Access CC BY-NC-ND

Abstract

Although researchers argue for the importance of involving the public in developing health policy, there has been little focus on central research questions – such as what techniques of public participation work, in what circumstances, and why. This paper presents a realist synthesis which identifies and explains the underlying mechanisms and specific contextual factors that lead to effective public participation in health policy and planning. Peer-reviewed, English language literature was searched, which resulted in 77 articles for review and synthesis. This synthesis uncovered the underlying mechanism of ‘political commitment’ that generates public participation effectiveness. The other three possible underlying mechanisms, namely: ‘partnership synergy’, ‘inclusiveness’ and ‘deliberativeness’, were found to potentially provide further explanation on public participation effectiveness for health policy and planning. The findings of this review provide evidence that can be useful to health practitioners and decision-makers to actively involve the public when drafting public health policies and programs and, more importantly, guide them in deciding which strategies to best employ for which contexts.

Additional keywords: context–mechanism–outcome configurations, participation techniques, public involvement effectiveness, realist review.


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