Disseminating research findings: the case of a health and literacy intervention
While the principal focus of GAHI is worms and their geographical distribution, we also work closely with other researchers in the context of tropical infectious diseases, including malaria. This blog post is about the importance of dissemination activities, with malaria field research used as a case study. It is written by Kate Halliday of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and study coordinator of the intervention described below. Disseminating study findings is an important aspect of any scientific research with implications across all disciplines, including disease mapping.
Research dissemination is the process of communicating the findings of a study and their possible implications for policy and future research. As scientists, we are all familiar with disseminating exciting research findings to the scientific community through academic papers and presentations. However, in any research involving human participants, dissemination should also include giving feedback to the local community, fieldworkers and various governmental agencies, on which the success of the study greatly depends. Such dissemination has three vital roles:
- formally acknowledging the contribution and support of these groups
- providing information (study findings) to inform new and existing strategies
- maintaining dialogue and good relations between the research team and communities so they are fully engaged and open to involvement in future research
It is important that this aspect of any research is properly resourced and considered at the initial funding stages.
My own experience comes from the recent dissemination we conducted in January for the Health and Literacy Intervention (HALI) project. This was a large-scale trial evaluating the impact of malaria control and enhanced literacy instruction on the health and education of school children in 101 government primary schools in Kwale County, on the South Coast of Kenya, from 2010 to 2012. During the two years that Kwale was my home, we evaluated two programmes: Intermittent Screening and Treatment (IST) for malaria and literacy focussed teacher training with interactive lesson plans.
As the project combined two sectors, it required the involvement of national and district government officers from the Ministries of Education and of Public Health and Sanitation. Our critical interaction with the governing systems was through the district officers of health and education in Kwale. Their practical support in terms of providing personnel and their diplomatic support in facilitating the activities in the schools was critical to the study, making them one of the key groups to which we wanted to disseminate our findings. We created a research brief to summarise the study and present the policy implications, and we distributed this during dissemination meetings.
We held a district-level meeting on the 24th January, inviting members of the County and District commissions as well as district education officers, district officers for health, and all additional personnel concerned with school health in both ministries. Due to their inordinately busy schedules it is notoriously difficult to achieve the attendance of any significant number of government officers at one meeting within a sector, let alone two. We were therefore greatly encouraged to have such a high turnout, with only a very few officers sending both apologies and a substitute member of their department. Despite having been invited to an alternate meeting by another research organisation, many cited our constant desire to inform and interact with them as the reason for attending our meeting. A series of presentations led to lively discussions and enthusiastic debates about the results of both interventions and future steps to be taken.
During the two years we followed over 5000 children and worked with over 100 teachers, 60 education field officers, 50 local facility nurses, 20 local lab technicians, 20 community liaison officers and 20 drivers. It was important to recognise the invaluable contribution of all these groups and this was done through a community forum held on Saturday January 26th in one of the centrally located study schools, Jomo Kenyatta Primary School in Msambweni. Head teachers, teachers involved in trial implementation and parent-teacher association (PTA) chairpersons from the 101 schools, as well as the field officers, were invited to attend. The turnout was astounding: 88%of the teachers and PTA chairpersons attended, with a total attendance of 300 people. Under a large mango tree we had a celebratory meeting atmosphere with speeches, prayers, singing, dancing and sodas. A challenge with these meetings is to ensure that findings and implications are provided in an accessible way, with key messages and practical suggestions (for example, displaying more text in the classrooms for improving literacy). This way, the attendees can spread the messages to the rest of the community. Due to the constant presence of the HALI team in all the schools during the study, and regular SMS and phone communication with all the teachers and PTA chairpersons, we were all very familiar to the attendees and the atmosphere was lively and open.
Bringing together the various relevant parties in a social gathering and encouraging an open dialogue is the culmination of a project rooted in its local setting. Although it’s sad to close this chapter in Kwale, I think we went out on a high. We look forward to future collaborative research and working with local officials and communities to improve the health and education of the wider population, be it through evaluating interventions on malaria, deworming, school feeding, or integrated school health programmes combining all three!
Kate Halliday and the HALI team
Scroll down for more pictures!
For more information about HALI, please refer to the following research publications:
Read a summary of our findings and policy implications in our HALI research brief.
In line with our commitment to open access, you can also download the data from the baseline survey and all our survey instruments.
Attendants of the community meeting in Jomo Kenyatta Primary School, Mswambweni, sign in and collect our research brief:
Explaining the results of the literacy intervention:
Children performing a dance at Jomo Kenyatta Primary School:
Members of the HALI team and attendants of the district-level meeting, including district health and education officers: