Date of Award

Fall 12-2018

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)



Second Advisor



Objective. This systematic review compares the extent of participation of women in maternal and child health and healthy living-type research projects based on three participatory research frameworks, Participatory Action Research (PAR), Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR), and Participatory Learning in Action (PLA), by examining roles, tasks, engagement, and the duration and complexity of their participation- as guided by the Community Engagement in Research Index (CERI). The review analyzed differences in underlying structure of the studies connected to their theoretical underpinnings. Methods. Ovid Medline, PubMed, EBSCO, CINAHL, Embase, Scopus, and Academic Search Complete were searched for studies published 2009 – 2018. Eligibility was assessed by the author through predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Qualitative and quantitative data related to participation were extracted from each study into a coding form, then organized for analysis into tables and diagrams for each measure of participation based on categories informed by CERI. Results. Of the 728 abstracts reviewed, 28 studies met inclusion criteria following full text review. These included 9 PAR, 16 CBPR, and 3 PLA studies. Of these, PAR studies engaged local women primarily in data collection and analysis, often through photovoice. PAR roles involved a median of 4 research tasks and lasted 3 months. PAR studies typically had researchers worked directly with the population in small numbers. CBPR roles were more heterogeneous. They had the lowest duration (2 months) and complexity (3 research tasks), and were more active in developing institutional arrangements. PLA demonstrated the longest duration (24 months) and highest complexity (9 research tasks) of participation. PLA maintained participation through the research stages, while PAR and CBPR participation dropped at implementation and evaluation. PLA engaged the largest numbers of collaborators in projects. Conclusion. Each framework has unique strengths to contribute to participatory research. Theoretical differences relating to objectivity of participatory evaluation, whether action should be inherent to participatory research, and how to design studies in which the recipients of an intervention are protagonists of learning processes require further exploration. Creating reporting standards for participatory research will improve the ability of future reviews to examine and synthesize insights related to participation