Involvement and Participatory Approaches in Applied Health Research
This article provides an account of service-user involvement in applied health research in the U.K., where such involvement is understood as research 'with' or 'by' service users. I reflect on some of the driving forces behind service-user involvement in health research and discuss the ways in which this kind of involvement has become systematised in a research context that values comparison and evaluation. I argue that the potential to conflate participatory research with service-user involvement may lead to participatory approaches – so often practiced by anthropologists – becoming described as forms of service-user involvement. Despite the systematisation of service-user involvement to meet the requirements of applied health research, service-user involvement is not viewed as providing research evidence. If participatory approaches become redefined as user involvement then there is a risk that evidence produced by disciplines such as anthropology are no longer viewed as 'evidence', and become unable to influence decisions about healthcare practice and policy. Sensitising anthropologists to this possibility may be a first step in identifying ways to ensure that results from participatory research retain a position as evidence.