Community assessment workshops: A group method for gathering client experiences of health services. Health and Social Care in the Community
Lawless, Angela Patricia
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Community assessment workshops were developed to gather client experiences of primary health care services in Australia. Primary health care services are particularly concerned with working with disadvantaged populations, for whom traditional client survey methods such as written surveys may not be inclusive and accessible. Service staff at six Australian primary health care services, including two Aboriginal-specific services, invited participants to attend workshops in 2011–2012. Participants were offered transport, childcare and an interpreter, and provided with reimbursement for their time. Ten workshops were run with a total of 65 participants who accessed a variety of services and programmes. A mix of age and gender was achieved. The workshops yielded detailed qualitative data and quantitative rankings for nine service qualities: holistic, effective, efficient, culturally respectful, used by those most in need, responsive to the local community, increasing individual control, supports and empowers the community, and mix of treatment, prevention and promotion. Discussions were audio recorded and transcribed for qualitative analysis. The workshop approach succeeded in being (i) inclusive, reaching users from disadvantaged sections of the community; (ii) comprehensive, providing ratings and discussion that took account of the whole service; (iii) richly descriptive, with researchers able to generate detailed feedback; and (iv) more empowering than traditional client survey methods, by allowing more control to participants and greater benefits than surveys of individuals. The community assessment workshops are a method that could be widely applied to health service evaluation research where the goal is to reach disadvantaged communities and provide ratings and detailed analysis of the experience of users. The participants and the research benefited from the group approach, and the workshops provided valuable, actionable information to the health services. Recruitment of users, particularly those from culturally diverse backgrounds, remains one of the key challenges facing evaluators.