Co-creating communications with patient and public groups

  • 6 September 2021

Taking a ‘less is more’ approach and not overwhelming audiences with too much information is the most effective approach to developing patient and public involvement (PPI) recruitment materials, according to public contributors.

Involving patient and public groups in the development of health research is important to ensure that it is accountable, transparent, and best serves those who will benefit from it the most. However, recruiting a diverse group of people to take part in these opportunities often proves difficult.

To tackle this, Mike Bell and from NIHR ARC West and Bristol BRC decided to run a workshop to identify the barriers people might have to engaging with these opportunities. The workshop specifically concentrated on the design and information included in communications materials sent to potential participants.

The workshop included people who’d previously engaged with People in Health West of England (PHWE) adverts and studies, some who had never been involved in PPI, a member of the ARC West plain language panel and a parent whose child was part of the Young People’s Advisory Group. The group’s demographics were intentionally not the white middle class people who typically get involved with PPI.

The group established a variety of ways that researchers seeking PPI input could improve their approach. It was agreed that clear, colourful, and concise information is far more useful and inspiring than including extensive information and context on the background of the study. Although they agreed this information was still important, it could follow later as a second step in the recruitment process.

Mike showed a variety of designs and materials from different studies and the group unanimously agreed that the picture below was the ‘perfect’ advert, although they agreed it should say ‘paid’ rather than reimbursed.

An example of a good PPI poster

The poster was designed and used by Dr Sarah Sauchelli Toran, an NIHR Bristol BRC funded researcher exploring health-related behaviour change for healthy weight management. She often uses PPI in her work and said:

“Effective PPI recruitment is fundamental, to give people the knowledge, confidence, and motivation to help us improve the quality of our work. I rely on PPI to better understand the challenges people face with existing approaches, identify research priorities, and to obtain feedback on whether novel approaches that could work in theory would be accepted by future beneficiaries.

“Working with Mike has expanded the breadth of people who have contributed to these discussions, which is extremely valuable in our efforts towards inclusivity in research and to ensure that innovation has meaningful impact for a very diverse population.”