Community participation in rural primary health care services from the community's perspective
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The World Health Organization (WHO) (WHO, 2004:20) describes a community as a social group of any size, with its members residing in a specific locality, sharing government and a common cultural and historical heritage. In the context of health, a community can be considered as those who are affected by similar health issues, or it can simply be defined as stakeholders, such as health professionals or patients. Community participation is collaboration in which people voluntarily, or due to some incentive, collaborate with externally determined projects, either contributing their labour and/or resources for some expected benefit. Within the health system community participation can either be guided by law or regulations, for instance, the White Paper for Transformation of the Health System in South Africa and the South African patients' bill of rights charter, or it can be on a voluntary basis without any guidelines. The researcher believes that the focus should be on how the community can participate in the decisions that affect their health. The research was aimed at exploring and describing a rural community’s perceptions on community participation in Primary Health Care (PHC) services rendered to improve the quality of the current PHC services. The main question asked was: What does effective community participation in PHC services entails to improve the quality of health care according to the community members’ perspectives in a rural community? A qualitative research approach was used to conduct the research on the perceptions of community members on community participation in PHC services. The research took place in Dewetsdorp, a rural area situated in the Xhariep district of the Free State province in South Africa. Data was collected by means of focus groups, making use of a semi-structured interview schedule consisting of four questions in an endeavour to reach an answer on the research question. Three focus groups realised; one consisting of the community leaders as members of the community, another consisting of members from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the last consisting of community members utilising the PHC services in Dewetsdorp. Digitally voice recorded focus groups were transcribed for data analysis. Data saturation occurred after three focus groups, with an average of seven participants per group. The themes that emerged from the focus groups are discussed with literature integration. The findings of the research suggest that the community members of Dewetsdorp have a strong sense that community participation should form part of the PHC services. They expressed the view that they play an important role that should be acknowledged and they want to be respected as partners who are willing to take ownership of the PHC services in their community through participation. From the research results and conclusions, the researcher compiled recommendations for nursing education, nursing research and primary health care nursing practice.
- Health Sciences 
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