Decentred comparative research: Context sensitive analysis of maternal health care
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Cross-national comparison is an important tool for health care research, but too often those who use this method fail to consider important inter-national differences in the social organisation of health care and in the relationship between health care practices and social experience. In this article we make the case for a context-sensitive and reflexive analysis of health care that allows researchers to understand the important ways that health care systems and practices are situated in time and place. Our approach--decentred comparative research--addresses the often unacknowledged ethnocentrism of traditional comparative research. Decentred cross-national research is a method that draws on the socially situated and distributed expertise of an international research team to develop key concepts and research questions. We used the decentred method to fashion a multilevel framework that used the meso level of organisation (i.e., health care organisations, professional groups and other concrete organisations) as an analytical starting point in our international study of maternity care in eight countries. Our method departs from traditional comparative health systems research that is most often conducted at the macro level. Our approach will help researchers develop new and socially robust knowledge about health care.
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