Peer research offers fresh insight into health and human rights

What does the right to health mean to people who face inequalities and may struggle to access support?

This was the question at the heart of a participatory action research study recently published by the SNAP Health and Social Care action group and a range of partners.

Carried out by ‘peer researchers’ (someone who has a similar life experience to the people taking part in the research) the project focussed on two groups of people in Glasgow who experience health inequalities, these being homeless people and women refugees and asylum seekers.

Between December 2015 and January 2016, 34 people who had experience of homelessness and 49 women with the status of refugees or asylum seekers took part in the research in Glasgow, 83 people in total. They were asked to think about what the right to health meant to them, and to reflect on their past experiences of services and health issues.

The research revealed that human rights often felt far removed from participants’ reality, but for different reasons. Participants were also clear that their experiences impacted on their mental health, but it was largely believed that this was overlooked by the services they interacted with, or treated inappropriately.

The findings from the study generated a number of key recommendations for policy makers and service providers.

These included:

  • Mainstream the training and employment of peer workers within services
  • Promote awareness of complaints process amongst people with lived experience of homelessness and the provision of advocacy support in making complaints
  • Tackle discrimination and stigma through training led by people with lived experience and strengthen complaints processes, learning from other areas such as mental health stigma programmes
  • Promote knowledge of rights and how to claim rights – this information must be made accessible and engaging as currently it is not

Read – ‘What do you mean, I have a right to health?’ Participatory action research on health and human rights

The project was undertaken in partnership between NHS Health Scotland, the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE), the Health and Social Care Academy, the University of Strathclyde Centre for Health Policy, Glasgow Homelessness Network and the Mental Health Foundation.

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