Evidence Library

Title: The power of symbolic capital in patient and public involvement in health research
Author: Locock L; Boylan A M; Snow R; Staniszewska S
Date Published: 2016
Reference: Health Expectations 24, 24
Are service users or carers authors: No/Not Known

Abstract: Policy‐makers and health research funders increasingly require researchers to demonstrate that they have involved patients in the design and conduct of research. However, the extent to which patients and public have the power to get involved on an equal footing is dependent on their economic, cultural, social and symbolic capital. Objective To explore power relations in patient and public involvement (PPI) in research, particularly how patients may wield symbolic capital to develop a more equal relationship. Methods Narrative interviews with a maximum variation sample of 38 people involved as patients, carers or public in health research, analysed thematically. Findings Symbolic capital may be demonstrated in a range of ways (sometimes alongside or in the absence of other forms of capital): illness experience, technical illness knowledge and the challenging outsider. Symbolic capital is unstable and dependent on others for recognition and legitimacy. Nonetheless, participants identify a gradual shift in power relations over time. Discussion and conclusions Research into PPI has been conceptually and theoretically poor, limiting our understanding of its mechanisms and wider contextual elements. Our findings demonstrate the importance of reflecting on the forms of power and capital wielded by the health research community, and of acknowledging the way in which PPI is challenging the status quo. As one of the first papers to conceptualize how different forms of symbolic capital operate and their critical role in challenging the balance of power, our findings may help researchers better plan their PPI activities and reflect on their own power

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Categories: all
journal article
lessons from direct experience of involvement

Date Entered: 2018/09/19

Date Edited: 2018/09/19

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