Community Engagement is critical for building relationships between the researchers and various stakeholders involved in medical research. This entails community involvement in the research process from early stages of protocol development, to implementation, and dissemination of study results and their impact on public health. This has been facilitated through establishment of the Community Advisory Boards (CAB’s) for various research studies and ultimate direct engagement with communities at open fora such as Kgotla meetings to further explain the study. In order to facilitate recruitment and retention in studies, BHP has heightened its community and stakeholder engagement to enlighten them on BHP’s mandate, ongoing research and the outcomes of research studies.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BHP instituted and participated in multiple COVID-19 clinical and vaccine research. In relation to the COVID-19 vaccine research portfolio, BHP implemented the following community engagement activities; engaged the community at their workplaces for COVID-19 vaccine education, recruitment, arranging for consenting and COVID-19 vaccination at work places as allowable by study regulatory processes. This made it convenient for workers to be vaccinated, participate in the study while not severely disrupting work activities and schedules. A specific focus of COVID-19 vaccine Education was aimed at addressing vaccine hesitancy, myths and misconceptions.
Community engagement allows BHP to have a deep appreciation of various community stakeholders’ perspectives, including what their health needs are and their research priorities. This has helped to build trust as it assists in addressing challenges faced by potential study participants.
The BHP Community Engagement Coordinator, Ernest Moseki in spearheading community engagements also arranged meetings with individual study participants to discuss their journey as they participated in the various studies conducted by BHP in order to understand participants experiences with study procedures and challenges.
This was undertaken in order to enhance understanding of potential benefits and risks of research participation. BHP also takes advantage of events that attract large number of people to market the organization and its research mandate.
On May 28 to 29, 2022, BHP participated at the Tlokweng Health Expo to recruit participants for the CoVPN 3008 “A Multi-Center, Randomized, Efficacy Study of an Early vs Deferred Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine in Regions with SARS-CoV-2 Virus Variants”
The CoVPN 3008 study team educated, empowered and motivated the public to participate in the vaccine study and to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The institute also took part at the My STEM Expo hosted in Mochudi on the 3rd of June 2022 where it educated students on the role played by BHP and its contribution to science as well as Science related career choices available at BHP. BHP also shared with students the importance of participating in research and the process involved in study participation.