Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Juanne Clarke

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Rising health care costs combined with limited health resources have made it essential for health agencies around the world to identify successful and affordable ways to prevent disease and promote health. Several national and international documents have proposed that increased community participation in health matters is one potential approach. While many of these reports detail the benefits of and need for community participation in health care decision-making, they provide little information as to how this should be achieved. The result has been a myriad of interpretations, interventions and practices of community participation. According to several scholars, evaluations are needed that assesses these approaches to determine what works, what doesn’t and why, as well as demonstrate that the assumed benefits associated with increased participation are valid.

Drawing upon the principles of illuminative evaluation as well as utilizing qualitative interviewing and a community participation assessment tool, the purpose of this research was threefold. First, it sought to evaluate a community participation project by having participants identify strengths and weaknesses of the process. Second, this research explored the value of this project for community participants and the health agency. Lastly, this study sought to provide feedback and recommendations to the health agency regarding this project.

Findings from the evaluation indicated that for the most part those interviewed felt that the community participation process adopted by the health agency was excellent. Participants identified the reliance on evidence, working together to collect evidence, and the project manger as real strengths of the process. Although participants felt the process implemented by the health agency was a success, reactions to the outcomes of the project and how it ended were surprisingly negative. Several interrelated factors seemed to contribute to these feelings the first being the different expectations that participants had for the project. Other factors, such as a lack of funds to carry on with subsequent phases of the project; life issues and priorities emerged that took precedence over health needs; and the announcement that a southern community located outside of Calgary was getting a urgent care facility, also contributed to feelings of dissatisfaction towards the project’s outcomes and ending. Even though the results of the project did not exactly meet expectations, respondents did feel that the initiative achieved some larger benefits such as opening up a dialogue between the two groups, which increased understanding and awareness of each other’s perspectives regarding health care provision. For community members there was also the sense that the information collected during the project legitimized their concerns about. Based on the findings, suggestions and recommendations are put forth that may improve future community participation projects such as the need to clarify goals and expectations; the role of context; the challenge of sustaining participation and the importance of communicating back to communities the impact of their participation.

Convocation Year