Participatory Action Research in Health Systems: a methods reader

Publication year: 

This reader aims to inform, motivate and strengthen the practice of participatory action research. In the 21st century there is a growing demand to channel collective energy towards justice and equity in health, and to better understand the social processes that influence health and health systems. Communities, frontline health workers and other grass-roots actors play a key role in responding to this demand, in raising critical questions, building new knowledge and provoking and carrying out action to transform health systems and improve health.  This reader promotes understanding of the term ‘participatory action research’ (PAR) and provides information on its paradigms, methods, application and use, particularly in health policy and systems.  It seeks to explain:


• key features of participatory action research and the history and knowledge paradigms that inform it;

• processes and methods used in participatory action research, including innovations and developments in the field and the ethical and methods issues in implementing it; and

• communication, reporting, institutionalization and use of participatory action research in health systems.


As a tool to support understanding and learning, the reader uses explanatory text backed by references and resources. It includes examples of participatory action research across high, medium and low income settings and across all regions globally. It provides a selection of readings on the subject (in Part five).

Harare, Zimbabwe