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Community exchange and time currencies: a systematic and in-depth thematic review of impact on public health outcomes

Author(s)

LEE C, et al

Publisher(s):

Elsevier

Objectives: Austerity in government funding, and public service reform, has heightened expectations on UK communities to develop activities and resources supportive of population health and become part of a transformed place-based system of community health and social care. As non-monetary place-based approaches, Community Exchange/Time Currencies could improve social contact and cohesion, and help mobilise families, neighbourhoods, communities and their assets in beneficial ways for health. Despite this interest, the evidence base for health outcomes resulting from such initiatives is underdeveloped. Study design: A systematic review. Methods: A literature review was conducted to identify evidence gaps and advance understanding of the potential of Community Exchange System. Studies were quality assessed, and evidence was synthesised on ‘typology’, population targeted and health-related and wider community outcomes. Results: The overall study quality was low, with few using objective measures of impact on health or well-being, and none reporting costs. Many drew on qualitative accounts of impact on health, well-being and broader community outcomes. Although many studies lacked methodological rigour, there was consistent evidence of positive impacts on key indicators of health and social capital, and the data have potential to inform theory. Conclusions: Methodologies for capturing impacts are often insufficiently robust to inform policy requirements and economic assessment, and there remains a need for objective, systematic evaluation of Community Exchange and Time Currency systems. There is also a strong argument for deeper investigation of ‘programme theories’ underpinning these activities, to better understand what needs to be in place to trigger their potential for generating positive health and well-being outcomes. (Edited publisher abstract)


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