This literature review, published in BMC Public Health in 2021 and funded by ALERRT, looks at the body of knowledge that has been developed for community engagement (CE) specifically as it applies to emerging infectious disease outbreaks in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The authors used a scoping review framework by Arksey and O’Malley to structure the review. They included 59 papers from a total of 722 articles derived from their trial and final literature searches, as well as a process of “citation chasing” and an expert call for grey literature. The core material related exclusively to health research trials during the 2014–2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak. The team synthesised reports on components of effectiveness of CE to identify and propose three themes as essential elements of effective CE.
The authors conclude that while there is a large volume of literature documenting CE activities in infectious disease research settings generally, there are few accounts of effectiveness dimensions of CE.
Their review proposes three themes to facilitate the effectiveness of CE initiatives as essential elements of CE activities in infectious diseases studies:
- Communication towards building collaborative relationships
- Producing contextual knowledge
- Learning lessons over time
They suggest that as there were relatively few in-depth accounts of CE from their literature review, documentation and accounts of CE used in health research should be prioritised.