How Do We Improve Participant Engagement for Clinical Trials In Africa?

Article By Samantha Trolli IN Participant Recruitment - 22nd April, 2022

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Participant engagement is necessary when executing a clinical trial. What is equally as important is maintaining the engagement of participants throughout the duration of a clinical trial. The main reasons why we see a struggle with clinical trial patient recruitment, specifically in Africa, is due to the following: a weak relationship with the medical and research community, high cost and low reward, and personal circumstances.

So how do we fix this? First, there must be a focus on improving the patients education, health literacy, and access to services that surround the clinical trial. Improving all of these focuses allows the patient to gain a sense of autonomy, or independence, within the research trial. Alongside this, it is important that the participant understands the procedures and purpose of the trial. This again helps to create a sense of autonomy, while also enhancing mutual trust. Educating the participant on the details of the trial will empower them to become involved in their own health and with the purpose of the study. With this being said, communication is key when recruiting and engaging participants for clinical trials in Africa.

The theme of trust also plays a role in clinical trial patient recruitment and engagement. Trust can be developed in many ways, one main way of doing this is through engagement with communities. Engagement with communities creates trust between the researcher and participants because it makes the members of the communities feel a sense of ownership and control in regards to the research. There are many ways of engaging with communities, due to different religions, cultural, traditions, and socioeconomic factors existing in the communities of interest. An example of this type of trust building can be seen when a clinical trial partnered with a community in the country of Burkina Faso, Africa. The trial recruited participants by engaging in a local traditional game which allowed them to randomly and fairly select individuals to be screened for participation in the trial. The entire community was present and actively participated in the game; this translated to the community that all eligible members had a fair chance of selection for participation in the clinical trial. Such a participatory approach promoted mutual trust between the researchers and community.

Overall, communication and trust are necessary requirements when focusing on clinical trial patient recruitment in Africa. To enhance communication, it is important to begin the trial by laying out the purpose and procedures of the trial to all participants in a manner which is easily understood. To strengthen trust with the individual and community, cultural and traditional values must be taken into account when aiming to engage with the community. At Infiuss, we are actively working on promoting an intuitive platform where information can be easily translated between researchers and participants through an online setting. 

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