oa Southern African Journal of Infectious Diseases - The benefits of using a community-engaged research approach to promote a healthy lifestyle in three Nigerian urban slums : brief report
Slums are a wide range of low-income settlements with poor living conditions. The quality of the dwellings varies from simple shacks to permanent structures, while access to water, electricity, sanitation and other basic services and infrastructure tends to be limited. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) exist in slums as the inhabitants adopt an urbanised lifestyle which places them at high risk. Lack of knowledge about the complications of NCDs and how to control them contributes to a large percentage of undetected and untreated cases. Therefore, our recently concluded study aimed to reduce the prevalence of NCDs by promoting a healthy lifestyle in three Nigerian urban slums using a community-engaged research approach. We decided to adopt this approach since community-engaged research takes place in real-world conditions, thus increasing the applicability of findings to practical applications that improve human health. Literature has shown that meaningful community involvement can improve the research process itself, as well as the ultimate findings. Research questions about health issues that concern the community are developed, and people are more likely to give their support when they understand the purpose of the research, and how the results may positively affect them. Thus, this helps when recruiting participants. In addition, research questions help to identify the health risks that are revealed through people's participation, and helps with the development of appropriate ways to protect participants in this regard. Research questions also assist with improving study and instrument design by producing user-friendly, culturally sensitive, accurate and valid practices and measures. Furthermore, community involvement in analysis and interpretation can provide an important explanation of the results, and provide ideas that the researchers had not even considered. A community-engaged research approach provides an opportunity for greater trust and respect to be built between academic researchers and communities. This can lead to future research collaborations, as well as an improvement in community health.
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