Using community engagement and co-design methods to address critical rural health issues

Sarah Morton, Sarah-Anne Munoz

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Rural communities can be complex, diverse and challenging to engage with, however they are also innovative, resilient and resourceful. By working with communities in the coproduction of research and knowledge, it is possible to generate impactful and progressive responses to the contemporary challenges facing rural areas. This presentation reflects on a community engagement approach designed to harness the qualities and expertise of rural communities to mitigate the impact of Lyme disease.
Using Lyme disease as the context of our study, we designed and implemented a community engagement approach. This presentation reflects on our methodology and methods of engagement to demonstrate how they were used to increase academic and lay understandings of the issue, and to co-design responses to address it. Taking a mixed-methods approach we conducted community engagement consultations and focus groups to generate data that helped us to identify potential themes for community co-design approaches. This allowed us to access the ‘expert’ voices of the very communities affected by the issue and to develop materials with potential to be more useful and successful in addressing the issue.
Through our study, we were successful in co-designing a package of risk mitigation materials to raise awareness of the tick and Lyme disease issue. Additionally our study generated a ‘ripple effect’ whereby our initial engagement efforts produced unexpected engagement activity throughout the course of the study. This ‘ripple effect’ meant that we were able to identify critical concerns about the methods implemented in order to raise awareness about Lyme disease, such as putting tourists off going to a particular area - something that has potential to cause serious financial impact to a fragile local economy that relies on an income from tourism to exist.
This, and other findings from the study, have highlighted the importance of involving communities in developing solutions, as well as building relationships to maintain close alignment with evolving structures within rural communities – allowing research projects to adapt and be informed by the ‘expert’ voices from within the community, as well as addressing issues that communities feel are not being tackled and addressed by ‘authoritative’ sources.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusSubmitted - Jul 2017
EventEuropean Society for Rural Sociology Congress - Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland
Duration: 24 Jul 201727 Jul 2017
Conference number: XXVII


ConferenceEuropean Society for Rural Sociology Congress
Internet address


  • community engagement
  • Lyme disease
  • rural communities
  • rural issues
  • co-design
  • ethnography
  • rural health
  • health
  • health and wellbeing
  • health and place
  • behaviour change
  • behaviour change interventions


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