Feedback from researcher colleagues at Holyrood Garden Party really highlights the impact and importance of diverse public involvement.

Thanks to the generosity of organisers of the Holyrood Garden Party, 3 colleagues who have different research specialities were able to join us in August, providing them the opportunity to discuss their current work with a wide range of attendees.

One research colleague, who was discussing 2 ideas – testing a risk assessment tool for the early prevention of childhood obesity, and another investigating how change in exposures and behaviour between pregnancies impacts offspring’s health – had the following feedback:

There was a lot of discussion on priorities in the lives of the mothers I spoke to. Issues such as financial hardship, housing, finding a job and going through the legal system, for example in relation to disputes with previous partners over children/finances took priority compared to worrying about lifestyle behaviours such as healthy diet and exercise. This informs how we build a person-centred approach to modelling change between pregnancies factoring in these socioeconomic factors.

“I realised that some women who live in disadvantaged socioeconomic conditions and/or from various ethnic backgrounds do not necessarily experience the biggest change in their lives following the birth of their first child, as previously hypothesised by me based on personal experience and previous PPI discussions, but some do after the birth of the second child as they had the support of living with their families after their first baby, while the second baby came with independence, and that carries the biggest change in environmental exposures, social experiences and behaviours.”

Another researcher, who was working on a project about raising awareness/promoting urinary continence during and after pregnancy had the following feedback:

I was successful at engaging with 12 women from different backgrounds, including 2 young women, several women from low socioeconomic groups, 2 Portuguese women and 2 women from ethnic minority communities. The majority of the women who engaged in this activity were very keen on participating on a research study of this nature due to its importance and impact on their health, as expressed by many of them. However, it has to be noted that women involved and/or with certain research knowledge, were more likely to express their interest in a hypothetical participation in this research. Also, the majority of women who were prone to hypothetically participate have already had children, which could affect their health perception (and therefore willingness to take part) after going through pregnancy and childbirth. 

Regarding the recruitment strategy, contrary to my initial believes, every woman considered that the most acceptable and trustful resource to be offered to take part in a research study was to be approached by their midwife and/or a letter through the post, as both options seemed more formal and trustworthy, followed by a text/email option, being social media and leaflets a less popular option (depending on age). Women from ethnic minority communities did not necessarily use social media and preferred more traditional methods, as well as text messages or advertisement at churches or local community groups/centres. Leaflets at health centres without being proactively handed out would not seem effective for some women.

The third researcher colleague in attendance was at the very start of the research cycle, looking at better understanding the informal social needs and roots to better utilise local community assets, to support older people with frailty on discharge following an acute admission. They had the following feedback after the event:

Discussions with the residents helped me identify key stakeholders to involve, such as community wardens, as well as consider some of the ethical and logistical challenges such a study might have to overcome, including the difficulties in identifying often quite informal community groups that are poorly advertised and transient. The important of local knowledge in particular was highlighted.

It is clear how these discussions have played a huge part in providing a different perspective for these research projects. Hearing from people less typically involved in research has offered different views and helped the researchers consider different ways the research may need to be inclusive or relevant.

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