Participatory Health Research in South Africa

  • Maghboeba MosavelEmail author
  • Jodi Winship
  • Rashid Ahmed


While 1994 marked the official end of institutionalized apartheid rule in South Africa, the effects of decades of racism and economic disparity continue to reverberate to this day. Historically, medical and behavioural research was seen as the domain of the ruling class, steeped in power dynamics and reflective of the limited voice of the majority and most marginalized. If research was even conducted in underserved and under-resourced communities, it was certainly done using a top-down approach to identifying and solving problems. South Africa witnessed an overwhelmingly successful grassroots movement to eliminate racial inequalities and end apartheid. This intensive, grassroots cross-sector movement for racial justice has significantly informed the approaches and strategies necessarily required for conducting social and behavioural research within the South African context. Perhaps because of the many years of “research neglect”, or research logjam, grassroots research engagement specifically focused on social and behavioural research in post-transitional South Africa is not as copious as one might think, and much of the research is necessarily population-based. However, when research in South Africa is conducted using a community-engaged approach, it uses a critical methodology that is action-oriented while examining structural and community level factors that perpetuate conditions which marginalize communities. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight and further explore the action-oriented and policy-focused approach to community-engaged research and the underlying power structures and imbalances which inform South Africa’s participatory health research.


Participatory health research Community engagement South Africa Community-based participatory research International research International partnerships 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health Behavior and PolicyVirginia Commonwealth University, School of MedicineRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of the Western CapeBellvilleRepublic of South Africa

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