Overview of Stakeholder Engagement and Public Deliberation

"...data-driven solutions will be feasible and sustainable only if leaders create and implement those solutions with the active participation of people in the communities that they target."

Melody Barnes & Paul Schmitz, Stanford Social Innovation Review

Ensuring that health research is relevant and important to residents, patients, healthcare practitioners, policy-makers, and communities is critical to any effort to improve health and healthcare systems. Neglecting to engage stakeholders in health-related research, education, and policy-making can make acceptance and adoption of health interventions and recommendations—even those based on high quality evidence—difficult or even impossible. Engaging the public at large or members of a targeted stakeholder group around their values and opinions is crucial to understanding and creating the right conditions for evidence-based, health-related changes to take root and spread. Moreover, when there is no single “right” answer, eliciting peoples’ values and opinions at the outset of a research, education, or policy-making effort will greatly inform such efforts.

That’s why the Center for Healthcare Policy and Research (CHPR) has partnered with the Center for Healthcare Decisions (CHCD) on many projects over the years, and why our organizations merged in September 2017. Stakeholder engagement, which we define as encompassing facilitated deliberations with various stakeholder groups on topics related to public policy as well as to health research and education, is an important element that lies at the intersection of CHPR’s three-pronged approach of facilitating research, promoting education, and informing policy related to health and healthcare.

Stakeholder Engagement in Health Issues, at CHCD and Elsewhere

Since 1994, CHCD has both conducted its own research studies, and helped clients identify health issues of relevance to stakeholders and produce, implement, and evaluate customized non-partisan deliberative processes that reflect the views and values of those stakeholders. CHCD uses “high touch” deliberative methods, including illustrative scenarios and the computer-based priority-setting process CHAT® (see “Our Approaches” for more details), to bring what are usually complex, often controversial, issues of local, state, and national importance before groups of stakeholders. Findings from these deliberations are then analyzed and presented, along with recommendations, to clients who may include medical researchers, educators, policy-makers, healthcare plan representatives, providers, healthcare purchasers, or anyone interested in understanding stakeholder perspectives on health- and healthcare-related issues. CHCD’s stakeholder engagement work has provided decision-makers with valuable policy recommendations on many health-related topics such as: access, benefits, costs, quality, and end-of-life care. (Please read "Who We Are" to learn more about CHCD, its history and body of work.)

A few years after CHCD initiated its stakeholder engagement efforts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began advancing knowledge about this approach. The National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and other federal agencies, academic institutions, and many community organizations have since followed suit, promoting stakeholder (or more specifically, community) engagement as a means to solving challenging social problems. In fact, some funding agencies now require researchers to include elements of community engagement in their research proposals. Such engagement efforts have made essential contributions to programs addressing smoking cessation, obesity, cancer, heart disease, and other health concerns.

Want to Engage Your Stakeholders?

As a result of the merger of CHPR and CHCD, we now have the capacity to work with researchers, healthcare providers, policy-makers at all levels of government, healthcare plan representatives, professional associations, community organizations, philanthropists, and other clients to understand the views and priorities of targeted stakeholders. Whether you are conducting research, considering changes within your company or local community, or are facing a state or national policy dilemma, we can help you engage your constituents. (More information about recent projects we’ve worked on, policy studies we’ve published, and the research methods we use can be found elsewhere on this website.)

To learn more about our Stakeholder Engagement services, please contact Patricia E. Powers, MPA: pepowers@ucdavis.edu.

Research-Related Benefits of Stakeholder Engagement

The following nine areas (adapted from Staley 2009) illustrate ways in which public involvement, such as stakeholder engagement, can make a positive impact on research projects.

Agenda-Setting—Stakeholder engagement can improve the focus of a project, and the choice of collaborators who participate.

Design and Delivery - Community stakeholders’ knowledge of local circumstances can lead to efficient identification of previously unknown causal links and improvements to, for example, study design, tools, communication and dissemination.

Ethics and Informed Consent—Engagement with the public can identify ethical pitfalls and ways to improve the informed consent process. This is particularly important when informed consent is not feasible and a community consultation is required. 

Public Education—The knowledge and skills of targeted stakeholders can be enhanced.

Researcher Education—By deliberatively engaging stakeholders, academic partners may gain new insights into the relevance of a given project and enhanced understanding of the issue under study, which can be parlayed into wider dissemination of their findings.

Implementation and Change—New ways for how research findings can be used to bring about change can be identified and the capacity for change and maintaining long-term partnerships can be expanded.

Individual Research Participants—Stakeholder engagement can improve the way studies are conducted, making it easier to participate in them.

Community Organizations—Organization members can network with other stakeholders, laying the groundwork for subsequent collaborations.

The General PublicBy engaging the public up front, society will be more receptive to research in general and the benefits that come from it.