Community engagement practices in Southern Africa: Review and thematic synthesis of studies done in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Musesengwa R., Chimbari MJ.
Community Engagement (CE) is intended to enhance the participation of community stakeholders in research. CE is usually mentioned in publications as researchers discuss how they carried out community entry, consent and retained study participants but the actual CE activities are not always well documented. This paper reviews CE strategies employed in health research in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe with reference to the development of a CE strategy for a multi-centre study to be conducted in these countries. The search was conducted using JANE (Journal/Author Name Estimator), Google Scholar and PubMed with known institutions and researchers providing context-specific material. The final synthesis includes 35 publications, 2 reports and 2 abstracts. There is evidence of CE being practiced in health research and eight closely related CE strategies were revealed. We conclude that since communities are heterogeneous and unique, CE activities will not have similar results in different settings. Even though there was insufficient evidence to determine which CE strategy is most effective, the review provides sufficient information to develop a CE strategy for a multi-centre study using the various strategies and activities described.