BACKGROUND: The INHERIT (INtersectoral Health and Environment Research for InnovaTion) project has evaluated intersectoral cooperation (IC) in 12 European case studies attempting to promote health, environmental sustainability, and equity through behavior and lifestyle changes. These factors are the concerns of multiple sectors of government and society. Cooperation of health and environmental sectors with other sectors is needed to enable effective action. IC is thus essential to promote a triple win of health, sustainability, and equity.
OBJECTIVE: This paper describes the design of a qualitative study to gain insights into successful organization of IC, facilitators and barriers, and how future steps can be taken to improve IC in the evaluated case studies.
METHODS: Each case study was assessed qualitatively through a focus group. A total of 12 focus groups in 10 different European countries with stakeholders, implementers, policymakers, and/or citizens were held between October 2018 and March 2019. Five to eight participants attended each focus group. The focus group method was based on appreciative inquiry, which is an asset-based approach focusing on what works well, why it is working well, and how to strengthen assets in the future. A stepped approach was used, with central coordination and analysis, and local implementation and reporting. Local teams were trained to apply a common protocol using a webinar and handbook on organizing, conducting, and reporting focus groups. Data were gathered in each country in the local language. Translated data were analyzed centrally using deductive thematic analysis, with consideration of further emerging themes. Analyses involved the capability, opportunity, motivation-behavior (COM-b) system to categorize facilitators and barriers into capability, motivation, or opportunity-related themes, as these factors influence the behaviors of individuals and groups. Web-based review sessions with representatives from all local research teams were held to check data analysis results and evaluate the stepped approach.
RESULTS: Data collection has been completed. A total of 76 individuals participated in 12 focus groups. In December 2019, data analysis was nearly complete, and the results are expected to be published in fall 2020.
CONCLUSIONS: This study proposes a stepped approach that allows cross-country focus group research using a strict protocol while dealing with language and cultural differences. The study generates insights into IC processes and facilitators in different countries and case studies to filter out which facilitators are essential to include. Simultaneously, the approach can strengthen cooperation among stakeholders by looking at future cooperation possibilities. By providing knowledge on how to plan for, improve, and sustain IC successfully to deal with today's multisectoral challenges, this study can contribute to better intersectoral action for the triple win of better health, sustainability, and equity. This protocol can serve as a tool for other researchers who plan to conduct cross-country qualitative research.
INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): RR1-10.2196/17323.