Strengthening health knowledge and action through engagement with diverse communities

Dr Cathy Vaughan1

1 Senior Lecturer and (Acting) Head, Gender and Women’s Health Unit, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne


There is increasing recognition that the relevance, rigour and reach of health research and interventions are strengthened by engagement and collaboration with those who have the most at stake in the outcomes – that is, patients, consumers and members of the communities particularly affected by the health issues being addressed. This presentation will present evidence for the impact of participatory approaches to health research, outlining how participatory approaches can strengthen our science and enhance uptake and translation into changed policy and practice. It will draw on case studies of participatory action research with women with disabilities and with migrant and refugee communities, reflecting on the challenges inherent in community collaboration and engagement, and suggest strategies by which allied health professionals may be able to incorporate greater consumer participation in their research and interventions.


Dr. Cathy Vaughan is a Senior Lecturer (Gender and Women’s Health), and Acting Head of the Gender and Women’s Health Unit in the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, at the University of Melbourne. Dr. Vaughan is recognised in the international health and development sector for excellence in participatory research practice, and she currently leads the Melbourne Social Equity Institute’s university wide community-engaged research program.  Dr. Vaughan has experience with a range of participatory research methods, and has particular expertise in the use of Photovoice.  She has published extensively on participatory research methodology and on ethical issues arising in participatory research practice.  Her research focuses on gendered health inequalities, violence against women, and sexual and reproductive health; primarily working with women with disabilities, migrant and refugee women, and young people, in Australia and in diverse settings in Asia and the Pacific.