Understanding the ‘community’ in community engagement: What does the research tell us?

Stream: Communities and Leadership
Date: Friday, 1 April 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.45 pm

Abstract

The active engagement of affected communities is an accepted guiding principle of the policy response to blood-borne viruses and STIs in Australia. However, the nature of ‘communities’ is contested, differs across BBVs and STIs and changes over time.

This paper reflects on understandings of ‘community’ drawing on findings from four studies conducted at ARCSHS around gay men and subcultures, people living with HIV, peer-based community programs, and affected community understandings of hepatitis B.

These studies demonstrate complexity in how communities are composed, how they organise themselves, and how individuals see themselves in relation to the community. However, complexity can be lost in health policy and programs that focus on unified categories like ‘gay men’ or ‘people living with HIV’, where levels and forms of identification vary internally.

In other cases, the category has been constructed across communities, such as ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ communities. Or, for example, ‘people living with viral hepatitis’ may see other communities to which they belong as much more relevant to their lives and experience. This has implications for the targeting of health programs, and for researcher and policymaker expectations of the insights that community engagement can deliver. Further research should continue to add to a complex and current understanding of how individuals and communities affected by BBVs and STIs understand their own experience and connections.

Authors

Jayne Lucke (Presenter), Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
Professor Jayne Lucke is Director of the Australian Research Centre for Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University and Honorary Professor at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research. Her background is in social and health psychology and she has published in the fields of sexual and reproductive health, women’s health, mental health, drug policy research and bioethics.

Graham Brown, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
Dr Graham Brown is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University. Graham has worked in community based health promotion and research for 20 years, with a particular interest in the role of community based organisations and peer-led programs, building long term collaborations with state and national research centres and community organisations in Australia and Europe. Graham is a past President of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations and continues to serve on a number of State and National BBV and STI related health promotion and policy committees.

Marina Carman, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
Marina has fifteen years of experience in the field of Australian and international responses to HIV, specialising in programs for health workforce capacity-building, health systems strengthening, policy analysis and evidence-based policy development. Her areas of research specialisation are health and education policy and service delivery related to sexuality education, prevention, treatment and care of HIV and sexually transmissible infections, and mental health in non-heterosexual populations. She has a special interest in community engagement and research impact, and how these are measured and supported in policy and in practice in Australia.

Anthony Lyons, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
Anthony Lyons is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University. Anthony specialises in research on the health and well-being of stigmatised and marginalised communities, with particular focus on LGBT populations, people living with HIV, and rural communities. He has expertise in mental health, sexual health, and resilience. He has published widely, including 56 journal articles, book chapters, and monographs. His research has informed policymaking and service delivery in government and community settings, and has regularly featured in the media both in Australia and overseas.

Jennifer Power, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
Dr Jennifer Power is a Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University in Melbourne. She is the coordinator of the HIV Futures study, a national, repeated cross-sectional survey of people living with HIV in Australia.

Roslyn Le, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society
Roslyn is a Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University. She is currently coordinating the Australian Research Council-funded research project, Strengthening Community Responses to Chronic Hepatitis B.
Roslyn’s background is in Sociology. She is highly experienced in designing, developing and implementing innovative qualitative research on sensitive issues with people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Roslyn’s main areas of research interest include ethnicity, gender, health and criminology.

Jack Wallace, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
Jack investigates the intersection of biomedical, social, economic, cultural and political factors in viral hepatitis, and investigates how viral hepatitis shapes individuals, social relations and social practices. In addition to a series of hepatitis B and hepatitis C related qualitative studies, he is a Chief Investigator on two Australian Research Council funded projects – Strengthening Community Responses to Hepatitis B, and Critical perspectives on serodiscordance in family life: Understanding and strengthening family responses to blood borne infectious disease.