|dc.description.abstract||Background: Involvement of communities in the field of health research has been at the forefront of what is considered as ethical conduct of research. A commonly used approach is regular meetings with locally recognized community leaders to consult about research activities, i.e. community engagement. At the Ifakara Health Research Institute (IHI) in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, different approaches to engaging with the community in health research have been used, but there has not been a systematic understanding of the functioning of the community network that is engaged within health research.
Methods: To understand the community networks engaged in health research, perceptions of community stakeholders and researchers on the functionality of the community networks was performed. We conducted six focus group discussions with respondents who have participated in IHI research for the past five years and 49 in-depth interviews.
Results: Community networks involved in engagement were influenced by the type of research project and kind of participants needed. Different community networks were involved in engagement activities, namely village executive officers, community health workers, hamlet leaders, nurses, doctors and community advisory boards. Approaches used during engagement processes to inform potential participants about the work of IHI and specific studies that are undertaken were useful in passing key information, however, they did not always reach the target population due to having limited levels of interaction with potential participants. Participants and researchers suggested additional ways to engage with the community.
Conclusion: There is a need of developing a community engagement unit that would work across projects to support engagement with the community. The unit will maintain continuous engagement with the community and conduct research to understand the relationship between communities we work in and researchers. Funding of this unit could be done through contributions from the core budget, individual’s projects or competitive grant application.||en_US