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In health, organizational participatory research (OPR) refers to health organization members participating in research decisions, with university researchers, throughout a study. This non-academic partner contribution to the research may take the form of consultation or co-construction. A drawback of OPR is that it requires more time from all those involved, compared to non-participatory research approaches; thus, understanding the added value of OPR, if any, is important. Thus, we sought to assess whether the OPR approach leads to benefits beyond what could be achieved through traditional research.
We identified, selected, and appraised OPR health literature, and at each stage, two team members independently reviewed and coded the literature. We used quantitative content analysis to transform textual data into reliable numerical codes and conducted a logistic regression to test the hypothesis that a co-construction type OPR study yields extra benefits with a greater likelihood than consultation-type OPR studies.
From 8873 abstracts and 992 full text papers, we distilled a sample of 107 OPR studies. We found no difference between the type of organization members’ participation and the likelihood of exhibiting an extra benefit. However, the likelihood of an OPR study exhibiting at least one extra benefit is quadrupled when the impetus for the study comes from the organization, rather than the university researcher(s), or the organization and the university researcher(s) together (OR = 4.11, CI = 1.12–14.01). We also defined five types of extra benefits.
This review describes the types of extra benefits OPR can yield and suggests these benefits may occur if the organization initiates the OPR. Further, this review exposes a need for OPR authors to more clearly describe the type of non-academic partner participation in key research decisions throughout the study. Detailed descriptions will benefit others conducting OPR and allow for a re-examination of the relationship between participation and extra benefits in future reviews.