Key informants and community members in community-based participatory research: one is not like the other.Prog Community Health Partnersh. 2011 Winter; 5(4):387-97.PC
As community-based participatory research (CBPR) gains national prominence, it is increasingly important to examine critically the meaning of community participation and the roles of research participants. Many CBPR projects rely heavily on key informants, but because of their social position, economic status, or professional role, they may not represent the views of community members.
This paper compares key informant and community member perspectives about neighborhood health to explore the types of knowledge produced by each group.
The data used for this study are part of a larger CBPR project, Taking Neighborhood Health to Heart (TNH2H). We conducted five focus groups with community members and 16 interviews with key informants.
Reported knowledge and beliefs about the community generally came from three perspectives: Primary key informant (key informant reports about neighborhoods and community members), secondary key informant (key informant assessments of community member beliefs and motivations for their behaviors), and community members. A number of differences emerged between key informants and community members in the types of knowledge they shared, revealing important assumptions held by key informants about community members.
As more funders call for health researchers to engage community members to improve the reach, impact, and translation of their research to improve population health, they must clarify what is meant by community engagement and recognize the roles that people's relative status and positions in society play in their knowledge about a given place.