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9.4: Strategy and content of information for communication

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  • Appropriate communication strategies and content should be designed and developed for different community audiences, depending on the nature of the information to be conveyed in the trial (also see Chapter 23). Depending on the specific requirements of the trial, these strategies may need to operate at several levels of the trial commu- nity, including communication with individuals, specific target groups, or the wider public. For example, community engagement can feed into, and overlap with, consent processes, which are discussed in Chapter 6 and are a clearly key activity in any trial (Participants in the Community Engagement Consent Workshop, 2013). All commu- nication activities must use culturally appropriate methods and take into consideration the target audience’s beliefs and norms, numeracy and literacy skills, power structures, gender issues, and other community dynamics that may differ from those of the trial team. Special issues may arise related to the collection of blood, urine, or stool speci- mens (see Chapter 17, Section 2).

    Participatory methods, using visual aids, can be used to illustrate and simplify sci- entific concepts related to the trial. Community health workers, traditional birth at- tendants, and other community health care providers with established credibility may sometimes be appropriate people to communicate with community members at vari- ous levels throughout the trial. But their motivation, training, other activities, and sustained engagement will need to be managed in collaboration with other commu- nity representatives (Angwenyi et al., 2013). Forms of participatory theatre, song, and dance can be effective in introducing new studies in contexts where these are estab- lished and valued means of communication. In some settings, radio, roadshows, and mobile phone messaging have been used to communicate with communities about research (Ndebele et al., 2012).

    While much of the content of the information to be conveyed will depend on the de- tails of the trial, it will be important in all cases to emphasize general information on the nature of research, including the voluntary nature of participation and the confidenti- ality of any information provided by the participants. Given common public concerns about safety in intervention trials, it may also be helpful to give a basic explanation of international and national research review processes for all studies and, for trials of drugs and vaccines, the trial phases, so that the current study is widely seen in this context. CABs and front-line staff can provide good support in assessing the appropri- ateness and comprehensibility of information included in messages and materials to support communication about the trial.