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Imperial College London

Introduction to Participatory Approaches in Public Health

Imperial College London via Coursera

Overview

This course will introduce you to participatory approaches to public health. You will learn about the history of participatory health research and why it is essential to solving contemporary public health challenges. The course will help you to understand the social and cultural context of public health, before introducing you to essential concepts for working with communities: knowledge and power. Finally, you will engage with critical analyses of participatory approaches, to help you to determine if and when such strategies are appropriate. Throughout the course you will analyse real-world case studies of community-based health projects, including historical HIV social movements, public health projects with sex workers, and participatory approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic. The course will equip you to practice public health in partnership with local communities. It is followed by a second course, Applying Participatory Approaches in Public Health Settings, which builds upon the theoretical foundations of this introductory course.

Syllabus

  • An Introduction to Participatory Approaches in Public Health
    • This week you will be introduced to participatory approaches to public health. What are they? Where do they come from? And why are they essential to solving contemporary public health challenges? Firstly, you will meet the team and get an idea of how this course is structured. We also want you to share your own experiences with other learners - in this way, you'll identify what you already know about participatory approaches, share useful insights and make connections with one another. In Lesson 1 you'll learn the key principles and characteristics of a participatory approach and learn about the history of participation in HIV social movements. In Lesson 2, you'll focus on the case study of Ebola, to explore how participatory approaches can be used in pandemics. Take note - we'll be returning to this discussion in Week 4 to see what lessons from Ebola can be applied to COVID-19.
  • The Social and Cultural Context of Public Health
    • This week will help you to understand the social and cultural context of public health. In Lesson 1, you will think about how to understand culture and society and their relationship with health, drawing upon readings from anthropology and sociology. You will then apply that thinking to the importance of culture for participatory public health. You will read and analyse studies in Malaysia and London, before hearing an interview with a researcher about how culture affects participation in health research Singapore. In Lesson 2, you will explore some of these concepts further through an in-depth case study of participatory projects with sex workers.
  • Foundations of Participatory Approaches: Knowledge, Action and Power
    • Welcome to Week 3. In Lesson 1, you will reflect further on what it means to create knowledge in a participatory way. You will learn about different epistemological approaches to knowledge creation, before doing an exercise exploring your own positionality in the social field. In Lesson 2, you will study the case of Participatory Action Research (PAR), as a way of introducing you to the concepts of action and power. You will watch a video introducing you to PAR, before undertaking readings and activities to explore these in more depth. This will help you to think about the forms of action you could take to help improve the health and well-being of the communities you work with.
  • Critically Engaging with Participation: Are Participatory Approaches the Future?
    • In Week 4, you will take a step back and place participation in context. In Lesson 1, you will be introduced to some ways of thinking about and evaluating participation, including some of the popular typologies of participation. You will start to consider if participatory approaches are always a good thing, and some of the dangers participation might pose. In Lesson 2, you will explore how participatory approaches could be used to tackle the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Taught by

Helen Ward

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