Zambart’s approach to community engagement
Community Advisory Boards (CABs)
Community Advisory Boards (CABs) are organised groups of individuals, usually, volunteers, elected by the community to represent them on a particular research project. These individuals have diverse backgrounds and experiences that they bring to the research project. They range from individuals with humble educational backgrounds but with a lot of experience in voluntarism to individuals with formal training in various fields. CAB members are the voice of the community; they speak on behalf of the community and specifically ensure community input into the research projects implemented by Zambart.
Once a month, the CAB members meet to give feedback to Zambart researchers concerning community views about the research project in question. They also receive feedback from the researchers and provide relevant advice.
National CAB (NCAB)
Most of the research projects Zambart implements are multi-community; one research project is implemented in multiple communities at the same time. This requires representation on the research from each community. Therefore, CABs are created in all the participating communities.
For uniformity and coordination of all community engagement activities in the research project, a National CAB (NCAB) is created for the project. The NCAB is a country-level mechanism that enables inter-CAB communication and collaboration between the community CABs. It provides a forum for discussing cross-cutting issues, sharing experiences across communities, as well as learning and developing best practices for the research project. The NCAB is comprised of at least one member from each of the community CABs.
On-going dialogue with community stakeholders
Because of their public health value, all research that Zambart conducts generates a lot of interest from different stakeholders at national, provincial, district and grass-roots levels. Zambart devises appropriate engagement mechanisms for these different stakeholders. Community-level stakeholders such as the CABs, Neighbourhood Health Committees (NHCs), Home Based Care (HBC) groups, support groups, Ward Development Committees (WDCs), traditional leaders, and traditional healers are kept informed of the progress of the research projects through scheduled meetings and other collaborative activities.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other communities of interest
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are increasingly getting involved in the implementation of HIV/AIDs and TB programmes in the country. Consequently, they have emerged as a special community of interest that Zambart has had to engage in its research projects. Recently, a Community Partners Platform (CPP) was created to represent the interests of PLWH in the PopART study. Membership of the CPP is drawn from organisations that represent PLWH such as the Network of Anti-Retroviral Drugs Users, Zambia National ARV Support Programme (ZNARVs) Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC), Zambia Network of People Living with HIV (NZP+), Community Initiative for Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Malaria (CITAM), AfroCAB, and International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW). Membership of the CPP is set to expand to include other CSOs.
Community and Social Mobilisation (C&SM) activities
Zambart uses various strategies and activities to inform the community about research projects being conducted in their communities. Some community mobilisation activities, such as health talks and focus group discussions with selected community groups, are also of an educative nature. Community and Social Mobilisation (C&SM) activities are done in conjunction with community representatives such as CAB members. Zambart’s C&SM activities are implemented to:
- Raise awareness about research projects being implemented in the community.
- Improve the community’s understanding of health research studies and related subject areas such as HIV transmission, treatment and care; TB transmission, treatment and care; Universal Test and Treat (UTT); Medical Male Circumcision (MMC); etc.
- Help improve or change people’s perceptions and attitudes towards health research and outcomes of research.
- Motivate individuals to respond positively to the study’s education and sensitization activities by accepting the study interventions.
Some activities are more suited for interpersonal communication because they allow for face-to-face interactions between Zambart staff and the people on the one hand, and among the people themselves on the other hand. Such activities include:
- Drama and song and dance
- Focus Group Discussions
- Door-to-door sensitization campaigns
- Health education talks
- Stakeholder meetings
- Participant meetings
- CAB meetings
Zambart conducts other activities through mass media channels. These include the deployment of:
- Print and electronic media
- Community events such as open-day events, sports events, church gatherings
- School events