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Open Access Correspondence

Harnessing the power of the grassroots to conduct public health research in sub-Saharan Africa: a case study from western Kenya in the adaptation of community-based participatory research (CBPR) approaches

Allan Kamanda1, Lonnie Embleton4, David Ayuku3, Lukoye Atwoli4, Peter Gisore5, Samuel Ayaya5, Rachel Vreeman56 and Paula Braitstein2478*

Author affiliations

1 Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Eldoret, Kenya

2 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

3 Department of Behavioral Sciences, College of Health Sciences, School of Medicine, Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya

4 Department of Medicine, Moi University, College of Health Sciences, School of Medicine, Eldoret, Kenya

5 Department of Pediatrics, Moi University, College of Health Sciences, School of Medicine, Eldoret, Kenya

6 Department of Children’s Health Services Research, Indiana University, School of Medicine, Indianapolis, USA

7 Department of Medicine, Indiana University, School of Medicine, Indianapolis, USA

8 Regenstrief Institute, Inc, Indianapolis, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:91  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-91

Published: 31 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is a collaborative approach to research that involves the equitable participation of those affected by an issue. As the field of global public health grows, the potential of CBPR to build capacity and to engage communities in identification of problems and development and implementation of solutions in sub-Saharan Africa has yet to be fully tapped. The Orphaned and Separated Children’s Assessments Related to their Health and Well-Being (OSCAR) project is a longitudinal cohort of orphaned and non-orphaned children in Kenya. This paper will describe how CBPR approaches and principles can be incorporated and adapted into the study design and methods of a longitudinal epidemiological study in sub-Saharan Africa using this project as an example.

Methods

The CBPR framework we used involves problem identification, feasibility and planning; implementation; and evaluation and dissemination. This case study will describe how we have engaged the community and adapted CBPR methods to OSCAR’s Health and Well-being Project’s corresponding to this framework in four phases: 1) community engagement, 2) sampling and recruitment, 3) retention, validation, and follow-up, and 4) analysis, interpretation and dissemination.

Results

To date the study has enrolled 3130 orphaned and separated children, including children living in institutional environments, those living in extended family or other households in the community, and street-involved children and youth. Community engagement and participation was integral in refining the study design and identifying research questions that were impacting the community. Through the participation of village Chiefs and elders we were able to successfully identify eligible households and randomize the selection of participants. The on-going contribution of the community in the research process has been vital to participant retention and data validation while ensuring cultural and community relevance and equity in the research agenda.

Conclusion

CBPR methods have the ability to enable and strengthen epidemiological and public health research in sub-Saharan Africa within the social, political, economic and cultural contexts of the diverse communities on the continent. This project demonstrates that adaptation of these methods is crucial to the successful implementation of a community-based project involving a highly vulnerable population.

Keywords:
Community-based participatory research; Sub-Saharan Africa; Orphaned and separated children