In the 21st century there is a growing demand to channel collective energy towards justice and equity in health, and to better understand the social processes that influence health and health systems. Communities, frontline health workers and other grass-roots actors play a key role in responding to this demand, in raising critical questions, building new knowledge and provoking and carrying out action to transform health systems and improve health. There is a widening array of methods, tools and capacities – old and new – to increase social participation and power in generating new knowledge through participatory research. At the same time, we need to be clear about exactly what participatory research is and what it can offer. This reader promotes understanding of the term ‘participatory action research’ (PAR) and provides information on its paradigms, methods, application and use, particularly in health policy and systems. This reader was produced through the Regional Network for Equity in Health in East and Southern Africa (EQUINET), with Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (AHPSR) and International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Canada. It will be launched at the Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in South Africa September 30 2014 after which the full reader will replace the leaflet on the site. The result of team work, the reader draws on experience and published work from all regions globally and explains:
- key features of participatory action research and the history and knowledge paradigms that inform it;
- processes and methods used in participatory action research, including innovations and developments in the field and the ethical and methods issues in implementing it;
- communication, reporting, institutionalization and use of participatory action research in health systems.