Elements of effective community engagement: lessons from a targeted malaria elimination study in Lao PDR (Laos).
Adhikari B., Pell C., Phommasone K., Soundala X., Kommarasy P., Pongvongsa T., Henriques G., Day NPJ., Mayxay M., Cheah PY.
BACKGROUND: Mass drug (antimalarial) administration (MDA) is currently under study in Southeast Asia as part of a package of interventions referred to as targeted malaria elimination (TME). This intervention relies on effective community engagement that promotes uptake and adherence in target communities (above 80%). OBJECTIVE: Based on the experienced of designing and implementing the community engagement for TME in Laos, in this article we aim to present the elements of effective community engagement for mass antimalarial administration. METHODS: The design and implementation of community engagement, which took place from September 2015 to August 2016 was recorded as field notes, meeting minutes and photographs. These data underwent qualitative content analysis. RESULTS: The community engagement strategy that accompanied TME in Laos was successful in terms of contributing to high levels of participation in mass anti-malarial administration (above 85%). Based on the experience of designing and implementing the community engagement, five key elements were identified: (1) stakeholder and authority engagement, which proceeded from national level, to regional/district and local level; (2) local human resources, particularly the recruitment of local volunteers who were integral to the design and implementation of activities in the study villages; (3) formative research, to rapidly gain insight into the local social and economic context; (4) responsiveness whereby the approach was adapted according to the needs of the community and their responses to the various study components; and (5) sharing control/leadership with the community in terms of decisions on the organization of TME activities. CONCLUSIONS: The community engagement that accompanied TME in Laos had to deal with challenges of implementing a complex study in remote and linguistically isolated villages. Despite these challenges, the study recorded high population coverage. Lessons learnt from this experience are useful for studies and intervention programs in diverse contexts.