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Developing a good practice model to evaluate the effectiveness of comprehensive primary health care in local communities

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      Abstract

      BackgroundThis paper describes the development of a model of Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC) applicable to the Australian context. CPHC holds promise as an effective model of health system organization able to improve population health and increase health equity. However, there is little literature that describes and evaluates CPHC as a whole, with most evaluation focusing on specific programs. The lack of a consensus on what constitutes CPHC, and the complex and context-sensitive nature of CPHC are all barriers to evaluation.MethodsThe research was undertaken in partnership with six Australian primary health care services: four state government funded and managed services, one sexual health non-government organization, and one Aboriginal community controlled health service. A draft model was crafted combining program logic and theory-based approaches, drawing on relevant literature, 68 interviews with primary health care service staff, and researcher experience. The model was then refined through an iterative process involving two to three workshops at each of the six participating primary health care services, engaging health service staff, regional health executives and central health department staff.ResultsThe resultant Southgate Model of CPHC in Australia model articulates the theory of change of how and why CPHC service components and activities, based on the theory, evidence and values which underpin a CPHC approach, are likely to lead to individual and population health outcomes and increased health equity. The model captures the importance of context, the mechanisms of CPHC, and the space for action services have to work within. The process of development engendered and supported collaborative relationships between researchers and stakeholders and the product provided a description of CPHC as a whole and a framework for evaluation. The model was endorsed at a research symposium involving investigators, service staff, and key stakeholders.ConclusionsThe development of a theory-based program logic model provided a framework for evaluation that allows the tracking of progress towards desired outcomes and exploration of the particular aspects of context and mechanisms that produce outcomes. This is important because there are no existing models which enable the evaluation of CPHC services in their entirety.

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      Large-scale, whole-systems interventions in health care require imaginative approaches to evaluation that go beyond assessing progress against predefined goals and milestones. This project evaluated a major change effort in inner London, funded by a charitable donation of approximately $21 million, which spanned four large health care organizations, covered three services (stroke, kidney, and sexual health), and sought to "modernize" these services with a view to making health care more efficient, effective, and patient centered. This organizational case study draws on the principles of realist evaluation, a largely qualitative approach that is centrally concerned with testing and refining program theories by exploring the complex and dynamic interaction among context, mechanism, and outcome. This approach used multiple data sources and methods in a pragmatic and reflexive manner to build a picture of the case and follow its fortunes over the three-year study period. The methods included ethnographic observation, semistructured interviews, and scrutiny of documents and other contemporaneous materials. As well as providing ongoing formative feedback to the change teams in specific areas of activity, we undertook a more abstract, interpretive analysis, which explored the context-mechanism-outcome relationship using the guiding question "what works, for whom, under what circumstances?" In this example of large-scale service transformation, numerous projects and subprojects emerged, fed into one another, and evolved over time. Six broad mechanisms appeared to be driving the efforts of change agents: integrating services across providers, finding and using evidence, involving service users in the modernization effort, supporting self-care, developing the workforce, and extending the range of services. Within each of these mechanisms, different teams chose widely differing approaches and met with differing success. The realist analysis of the fortunes of different subprojects identified aspects of context and mechanism that accounted for observed outcomes (both intended and unintended). This study was one of the first applications of realist evaluation to a large-scale change effort in health care. Even when an ambitious change program shifts from its original goals and meets unforeseen challenges (indeed, precisely because the program morphs and adapts over time), realist evaluation can draw useful lessons about how particular preconditions make particular outcomes more likely, even though it cannot produce predictive guidance or a simple recipe for success. Noting recent calls by others for the greater use of realist evaluation in health care, this article considers some of the challenges and limitations of this method in the light of this experience and suggests that its use will require some fundamental changes in the worldview of some health services researchers.
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          A planning framework for community empowerment goals within health promotion.

          Health promotion often comprises a tension between 'bottom-up' and 'top-down' programming. The former, more associated with concepts of community empowerment, begins on issues of concern to particular groups or individuals, and regards some improvement in their overall power or capacity as the important health outcome. The latter, more associated with disease prevention efforts, begins by seeking to involve particular groups or individuals in issues and activities largely defined by health agencies, and regards improvement in particular behaviours as the important health outcome. Community empowerment is viewed more instrumentally as a means to the end of health behaviour change. The tension between these two approaches is not unresolvable, but this requires a different orientation on the part of those responsible for planning more conventional, top-down programmes. This article presents a framework intended to assist planners, implementers and evaluators to systematically consider community empowerment goals within top-down health promotion programming. The framework 'unpacks' the tensions in health promotion at each stage of the more conventional, top-down programme cycle, by presenting a parallel 'empowerment' track. The framework also presents a new technology for the assessment and strategic planning of nine identified 'domains' that represent the organizational influences on the process of community empowerment. Future papers analyze the design of this assessment and planning methodology, and discuss the findings of its field-testing in rural communities in Fiji.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia
            Contributors
            Journal
            BMC Fam Pract
            BMC Fam Pract
            BMC Family Practice
            BioMed Central
            1471-2296
            2014
            15 May 2014
            : 15
            : 99
            4038362
            1471-2296-15-99
            10.1186/1471-2296-15-99
            Copyright © 2014 Lawless et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

            Categories
            Research Article

            Medicine

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