The ORCHID Project is a collaborative venture between the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College Cork and the Northside Initiative in Community Health (NICHE) Project, a community health development project, which serves the Knocknaheeny/Hollyhill area of North Cork. The ORCHID Project has used the problem structuring methods of new paradigm Operational Research, in combination with traditional analytic methods, to develop the problem analysis capacity and competences of a community health development group. This has been an essential element in a broader strategy to overcome some of the barriers that have stood in the way of partnership-building between community groups and statutory agencies within the health sector.
In this paper we briefly introduce the Primary Health Care Approach to health care development, in order to explain the critical importance attributed to the building of partnerships in health care planning. Drawing upon the experiences of developing and developed countries, we analyse the barriers that have hindered such partnership development. These experiences suggest that problem structuring methods, deployed effectively, could play a critical role in forming more constructive partnerships.
To illustrate this, we look to the experience of the ORCHID Project. Operational Research methods have been employed to facilitate analytic processes through which the NICHE Project has prepared: a) a proposal for a community-led primary care unit for the Knocknaheeny/Hollyhill area; b) a strategic plan for the next three years operation of the NICHE Project; and c) a project response to a community-based participatory planning exercise.