PhD Project

Exploring participation as a new perspective for child oral health promotion

PhD Student: Sarab Elyousfichildren brushing their teeth

Supervisors: Dr Jan Owens and Professor Barry Gibson

Participation has been high on the agenda of health promotion because it is a key element of the Ottawa Charter; which almost three decades ago stressed its’ necessity and outlined it as a key guiding principle in enabling people in matters concerning their health. Around the same time, the United Nations legally acknowledged the rights of the child, including the right to participate in all matters that may affect them. Subsequently, participation as a new perspective of child-health promotion became important. Although the movement and commitment to child participation has been around for quite a while, translating that into practice has been slow.

A systematic review (Marshman et al., 2015) revealed that 83% of children’s oral health research involved them as objects rather than as active participants and children’s voices are still not being heard. Although there has been a strong call for participatory child-centred approaches there is a lack of research and insight regarding children’s participation in oral health and oral health promotion.

The aim of my PhD study is to explore the dynamics & meaning of children’s participation in an oral health promotion (OHP) programme.

This was an ethnographic case study; it is qualitative, allowing for more flexibility and adaptation to a changing setting. This is particularly important for health promotion research which involves the study of complex human behaviour in natural settings that cannot be controlled for scientific investigation. In any particular setting, participants are bound by intrinsic rules and norms that they may be so familiar with that they act automatically and thus it is something that is difficult to articulate but may be observed (Guest et al., 2013). In observing things as they occur, a more accurate picture can be acquired and subtleties may be revealed which other methodologies may not be able to unveil.

children in a nursery school