NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Respiratory Health (RESPIRE)

Lessons learnt, challenges, and opportunities in stakeholder engagement

The experience of the stakeholder engagement process employed at the Vadu Rural Health Program, India, can be applied in other community-based research.


Research from RESPIRE, published in the Journal of Global Health, outlines the stakeholder engagement activities used at the Vadu Rural Health Program (VRHP), KEM Hospital Research Centre, Pune, India, and gives examples for other organisations working in community-based research. 

Stakeholder engagement in research

The publication states that engaging with stakeholders in health research has the potential to inform quality improvements, through incorporating multiple perspectives. This helps produce research that can both benefit and interest numerous stakeholders, as the research is based on their needs. In turn, stakeholder engagement can help improve the health, knowledge, and well-being of communities.

The researchers highlight that the impact and benefit of stakeholder engagement has not been well-recognised or established, and there is little published evidence for best practice. This is especially true in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Experience in Pune, India

The article discusses the experience at VRHP, where community-based research has been conducted for the last five decades, covering nearly 1 million people. However, stakeholder engagement was only recently systematically planned.

In the publication, stakeholders were categorised into three groups:

  • community
  • health providers and researchers
  • policymakers

Various strategies were used to engage with each group. These ranged from interpersonal communication and educational events, to engagement with policy makers to devise research priorities and strategies.

Additionally, using various media and social media provided access to previously unreached stakeholders.


The researchers outline that a number of challenges were encountered, including a lack of understanding. For example, stakeholders did not perceive how their involvement would improve research; community members did not understand the benefit to them of engagement activities; and researchers did not comprehend the importance of meaningful stakeholder engagement in research.

Upon consideration, regular communication with stakeholders, including transparency on how they contributed to the research, helped maintain meaningful engagement. This included respect of their time and collaboration. Supplying culturally-appreciated foods and arranging meetings at their convenience was also essential for success, as well as the provision of incentives, like compensating travel costs. 

RESPIRE funding also ensured dedicated stakeholder engagement resources, increasing the feasibility of its activities. Training and supplying opportunities can also help generate stakeholder engagement champions.

Future use of findings

The experiences from VRHP could be translated into other LMIC settings where organisations are working in community-based research.

Lead author Rutuja Patil believes stakeholder engagement at multiple levels is key to ensuring research is transparent. She said:

“It is important to engage with as many stakeholders as possible, from the community the health research could effect, the health care professionals implementing change, and the government officials who direct policy. Our experiences at VHRP will hopefully guide other community-based researchers to gain a holistic view when approaching research.”

Rutuja Patil is a RESPIRE PhD student based at the Vadu Rural Health Program (VRHP), KEM Hospital Research Centre, Pune, India. Her project is understanding how feasible the use of a teleconsultation facility in the management of chronic respiratory diseases could be in remote, rural areas.

Rutuja’s PhD project 

Read this paper

Engaging with stakeholders for community-based health research in India: Lessons learnt, challenges and opportunities (

Cite as

Patil R., Agarwal D., Kaur H., Gadgil M., Jackson T., Fernandes G., Juvekar S.; Engaging with Stakeholders for Community-Based Health Research in India: Lessons Learnt, Challenges and Opportunities. J Glob Health 2021;11:03072.