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Book Reviews   |    
Participatory Community Research: Theories and Methods in Action
Reviewed by Beth Hinden, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 2005; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.56.10.1320-a
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edited by Leonard A. Jason, Christopher B. Keys, Yolanda Suarez-Balcazar, Renee R. Taylor, and Margaret I. Davis; Washington, D.C., American Psychological Association, 2004, 320 pages, $49.95

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This book on participatory community research informs, instructs, and may even inspire. The work as a whole accomplishes several goals that are important to the promotion of participatory research as a legitimate and powerful complement to more traditional methods. Specifically, Participatory Community Research: Theories and Methods in Action effectively defines and distinguishes participatory research approaches, relates participatory community research to other theoretical approaches (such as feminism and multiculturalism) and methodologic approaches (such as epidemiologic studies and randomized controlled trials), and provides examples of cutting-edge research across a range of compelling public health problems, such as AIDS, smoking, alcoholism, and youth violence.

To the book's credit, it is a participatory work itself. That is, the entire "community of researchers"—academic faculty, graduate students, and community members—are reflected across chapters that delineate both strengths and weaknesses; an entire section is devoted to "stakeholder perspectives." As a whole, the book both reflects the current state of the art and sets the stage for the future of participatory community research.

The data presented in this book are compelling. Participatory community research represents a research approach dedicated to empowering individuals and communities through research partnerships. It prioritizes academic-community partnership and power sharing such that research questions and study designs are developed collaboratively and reflect the complex qualities and needs of the communities from which research participants are recruited and interventions targeted. Although these priorities create difficult challenges, they are also likely to generate stronger community commitment to research participation and to result in more appropriate, effective, and sustainable interventions—goals on par, it seems to me, with scientific objectivity and control.

Dr. Hinden is affiliated with the department of psychiatry at Worcester State Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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