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Laying the foundations of community engagement in Aboriginal health research: establishing a community reference group and terms of reference in a novel research field

O’Brien, P., Prehn, R., Rind, N., Lin, I., Choong, P.F.M., Bessarab, D., Coffin, J., Mason, T., Dowsey, M.M. and Bunzli, S. (2022) Laying the foundations of community engagement in Aboriginal health research: establishing a community reference group and terms of reference in a novel research field. Research Involvement and Engagement, 8 (1). Art. 40.

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Abstract

Background

Community engagement or community involvement in Aboriginal health research is a process that involves partnering, collaborating and involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or potential research participants to empower them to have a say in how research with Aboriginal communities is conducted. In the context of Aboriginal health, this is particularly important so that researchers can respond to the priorities of the community under study and conduct research in a way that is respectful of Aboriginal cultural values and beliefs. One approach to incorporating the principals of community engagement and to ensure cultural oversight and guidance to projects is to engage a community reference group. The aim of this study was to describe the process of establishing an Aboriginal community reference group and terms of reference. The community reference group was established to guide the research activities of a newly formed research collaboration aiming to to develop osteoarthritis care that meets the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.

Methods

Adopting a Participatory Action Research approach, this two-phase study was conducted in Victoria, Australia. In phase one, semi-structured research yarns (a cultural form of conversation used as a data gathering tool) were conducted collaboratively by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal co-investigators to explore Aboriginal health stakeholder perspectives on establishing a community reference group and terms of reference. In phase two, recommendations in phase one were identified to invite members to participate in the community reference group and to ratify the terms of reference through a focus group. Data were analyzed using a framework analysis approach.

Results

Thirteen people (eight female, four male) participated in phase one. Participants represented diverse professional backgrounds including physiotherapy, nursing, general practice, health services management, hospital liaison, cultural safety education, health research and the arts. Three themes were identified in phase one; Recruitment and Representation (trust and relationships, in-house call-outs, broad-spectrum expertise and Aboriginal majority); Purpose (community engagement, research steering, knowledge dissemination and advocacy) and; Function and Logistics (frequency and format of meetings, size of group, roles and responsibilities, authority, communication and dissemination). In phase two, six Aboriginal people were invited to become members of the community reference group who recommended changes which were incorporated into the seven domains of the terms of reference.

Conclusion

The findings of this study are captured in a 10-step framework which describes practical strategies for establishing a community reference group and terms of reference in Aboriginal health research.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Ngangk Yira Aboriginal Health Research Centre
Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd as part of Springer Nature
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
United Nations SDGs: Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/65700
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