Research Topic

Public Participation in Health Care: Exploring the Co-Production of Knowledge

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About this Research Topic

Participation and involvement of publics in the provision of health care is gaining traction as people are encouraged to become ‘discerning consumers’ in seeking care and wellness from an increasingly diverse range of providers. In order to meet the demands of consumers, health care providers seek feedback ...

Participation and involvement of publics in the provision of health care is gaining traction as people are encouraged to become ‘discerning consumers’ in seeking care and wellness from an increasingly diverse range of providers. In order to meet the demands of consumers, health care providers seek feedback from service users. This model has developed further from the neo-liberal approaches in the 1980s through to the age of austerity as those seeking health care particularly for long term conditions continue to be encouraged to self-manage their condition and become expert patients. The neoliberal agenda has thus increasingly appropriated participation.

However, participation has its roots in the radical emancipatory paradigm described by, amongst others, Paulo Freire (1921-1997), whereby participation is a route to empowerment enabling people to act on the conditions that shape their lives. This radical framework aiming for emancipation and empowerment does not fit easily with the continued neoliberal climate whereby health care provision is increasingly dictated by market forces. This Research Topic aims to explore this tension between participation as emancipatory and challenging, on the one hand, and participation as a servant to neoliberal capital forces, on the other.

It is particularly timely to explore this tension as different groupings of the public are becoming increasingly vocal and what perhaps started as participation to serve the market is slowly evolving, through Freire’s emancipatory journey, into an increasingly empowered public voice as the political potential of knowledge is realised. Thus, consultation with service users is slowly transitioning into demands for co-production, co-creation and co-design of services, where the service user contributes on an equal footing. This Research Topic aims to explore how this process fits with the neoliberal model of participation and service provision.

That there is a tension is evident in: debates about the authentic voice especially with the rise of populism; the relationship between participation, accountability and co-production; the extent to which participation provides breadth and depth to more traditional notions of what is evidence.

In particular, we are seeking theoretical articles drawing on existing social science (and wider) theory, and rich empirical contributions exploring, for example:

• How participation is represented within different models and frameworks for knowledge production and use;
• How participation is changing and the impact of this on service provision;
• How the co-production of knowledge is used;
• Who is involved in participation and what is the relationship with practitioners/professionals;
• Who are the publics and what are the structures of participation/accountability/co-production;
• Who controls the participatory processes.

Public contributors will be involved in the production of this Research Topic so that it is itself co-produced. A ‘User Reference Group’ will provide advice about article selection at abstract stage. We will ensure that all papers include an accessible summary written in plain English and invite the ‘User Reference Group’ to review this and provide a short commentary/blog in response to each article.


Keywords: Participation, public involvement, health care, evidence, knowledge co-production, accountability, authentic voices


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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