Abstract: understanding links between catchment manaagement and community health demands consideration of complex bio-physical, socio-economic and public health relationships. These relationships cut across a spectrum of health, environment and development considerations and highlight the need for appropriate and integrative modes of inquiry and decision making. What can Participatory Action Research (PAR) contribute to achieving an integrated approach to catchment management and community health issues? In addition to a methodological overview of Participatory Action Research, this paper reviews other participatory, community, action and ecosystems-based methods. Commonalities in principles and methods are highlighted across a number of fields of research and practice including rural and community development, public health and health promotion, natural resource management, environmental health, and integrated ecosystem-based approaches. Lessons learnt from application of Participatory Action Research are described in relation to a catchment and community health project, based in the Taieri River catchment, New Zealand. The case study emphasizes the importance of both horizontal and vertical connections between diverse coalitions of catchment stakeholders and the contribution of PAR cycles of inquiry, reflection and action, toward this type of integration. Both generic and locations-specific examples highlight the value of participatory methods that respond to the challenge of how to integrate the complex social and bio-physical processes that characterise human and ecosystem health.
Feedback and comments will be very much appreciated and acknowledged in future documents dealing with lessons learned and guidelines. These may be sent by e-mail to Margot Parkes ([email protected]))