Community engagement implementation for PRECISE rides on the strong partnership that Aga Khan University and other Aga Khan Development Network Agencies (Aga Khan Foundation and Aga Khan Health services) has built over the years with Kilifi County (particularly Rabai and Kaloleni sub counties).
In our study sites, extensive community engagement activities are conducted to raise awareness of the ongoing PRECISE study to women and communities in which they live in. The continuous engagement at the health facility level is through educational health talks and meetings with hospital managers and health care workers, while the community level involves discussions with women, their spouses and also community health volunteers.
Additionally, the engagement strategy involves sharing of key messages regarding research principles, informed consent and voluntary participation, biological sample collection, bio-banking and most importantly local myths bursting and addressing emerging misconceptions on research. This primarily involves working together with the community representatives such as community elders, religious elders, and cultural elders.
Going forward, as part of expanding community activities we plan to run PRECISE-DYAD open day to engage with the study participants and their families. The overarching aim is to dedicate a day of interactive learning and discussions about pregnancy and maternal and child health. These open days will take place in the main local communities where the participants live or at the health centre where the study takes place to ensure we include as many women as possible.
Since 2019 The Gambia study team has been in constant touch with the study communities. Close to 100 communities were visited and their individual traditional leaders, Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), now Community Birth Companions (CBCs), and village health workers were continuously involved in study activities over the course of the PRECISE study. In addition to face-to-face sensitization conducted mainly by field workers, monthly radio sessions ensured a widespread dissemination of information through talks and interviews by study staff followed by Q&As. Following the successful award of the ‘’Research Enrichment – Community Engagement’’ Grant, the PRECISE Consortium aims to engage staff and study communities (Study Participants) in The Gambia and Kenya with topics about pregnancy and mother and child health.
In community engagement events held across the study catchment area, sessions with informative and participatory components will be held and further developed until the end of PRECISE-DYAD in 2023. This study will use an exploratory design to gain insight in the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) topics of interest and perceived knowledge gaps in the PRECISE-DYAD study community and to ultimately develop a portfolio of MCH topics of interest and appropriate educational tools on how to communicate about them. The topics tackled are flexible and dynamic around Non-Communicable Disease (NCDs; eg hypertension during and after pregnancy, risk factors etc), child nutrition (breastfeeding, complimentary feeds, etc), mental health (postpartum depression, first aid), and COVID (sign & symptoms in infants and during pregnancy). The educational tools used range from posters, group discussions, role play, etc. Key points developed may cover a dietary plan or a good lifestyle example for the community. Pre- and post-activity questionnaires capture any knowledge improvement, and a feedback session provides insight into satisfactory of the participating community and their input for subsequent meetings.
We hope these regular events provide opportunities for interactive learning for the community on the one side and expanding the skillset of our study staff on the other. We anticipate to jointly improve the general level of knowledge around Maternal and Child Health and the community to apply in their everyday life.