Moving towards a more inclusive patient and public involvement in health research paradigm: the incorporation of a trauma-informed intersectional analysis

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Shimmin, Carolyn
Wittmeier, Kristy D M
Lavoie, Josée G
Wicklund, Evan D
Sibley, Kathryn M
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Abstract Background The concept of patient engagement in health research has received growing international recognition over recent years. Yet despite some critical advancements, we argue that the concept remains problematic as it negates the very real complexities and context of people’s lives. Though patient engagement conceptually begins to disrupt the identity of “researcher,” and complicate our assumptions and understandings around expertise and knowledge, it continues to essentialize the identity of “patient” as a homogenous group, denying the reality that individuals’ economic, political, cultural, subjective and experiential lives intersect in intricate and multifarious ways. Discussion Patient engagement approaches that do not consider the simultaneous interactions between different social categories (e.g. race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, gender, class, sexuality, geography, age, ability, immigration status, religion) that make up social identity, as well as the impact of systems and processes of oppression and domination (e.g. racism, colonialism, classism, sexism, ableism, homophobia) exclude the involvement of individuals who often carry the greatest burden of illness — the very voices traditionally less heard in health research. We contend that in order to be a more inclusive and meaningful approach that does not simply reiterate existing health inequities, it is important to reconceptualize patient engagement through a health equity and social justice lens by incorporating a trauma-informed intersectional analysis. Summary This article provides key concepts to the incorporation of a trauma-informed intersectional analysis and important questions to consider when developing a patient engagement strategy in health research training, practice and evaluation. In redefining the identity of both “patient” and “researcher,” spaces and opportunities to resist and renegotiate power within the intersubjective relations can be recognized and addressed, in turn helping to build trust, transparency and resiliency — integral to the advancement of the science of patient engagement in health research.
BMC Health Services Research. 2017 Aug 07;17(1):539