Public engagement is crucial for the success of ERASE-TB so as to communicate the importance and relevance of our research. Each site aims to share information and knowledge about the aims and methodology of the trial with the general public. Given that ERASE is recruiting local among communities, this is especially important in order to build trust, to inspire and engage, and for the communities to be assured that they are a vital component of the trial.
Our public engagement aims to empower and help patients to have a clearer understanding of their conditions and make better-informed decisions about their health. It can also inspire the next generation, not only to work in research but also to become the research volunteers of the future.
For young people, we have devised a Schools Engagement Programme that includes science fairs, science clubs and student internships with the aim of inspiring a passion for science, developing projects and ideas, and enabling students to work with qualified health professionals.
SCHOOL ENGAGEMENT OVERVIEW
We engage with young people from community-based schools in Harare through our school engagement programme that is currently being implemented on multiple studies. The main objective of this programme is to provide a platform for students with a passion for science to express their ideas & develop projects in a structured fashion as well as to expose them to healthcare & research professionals to inform their career aspirations. The programme chiefly consists of science clubs, science fairs, research field trips and internships for the students that we actively coordinate and provide resources.
Structure & Aims
The mandate of this part programme is to host two one-day science fairs at the schools we have chosen which are Mabvuku High School & Mhuriimwe Highfield High School. The science fairs will take place at the school premises during a school term and will consist of 'science projects & gaming stalls' that will be supervised by the research team. The stalls will be designated to students that have science projects to showcase as well as science games & quizzes stalls to engage students that will be in attendance. The main theme of the science fairs is "Ideas for Science and Health" which will allow students to focus their project ideas on science being applied to health.
The science fairs aims to give students with a passion for science a platform to present their ideas to peers in a stimulating creative environment and allow students to interact with healthcare professionals in science to explore how science is linked to health and to broaden their career prospects.
The science clubs initiative is an extra-curricular, mentor-based science programme for Zimbabwean high school students. They are currently being conducted at Mabvuku High School and Mhuriimwe Highfield High School where permission was granted by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to have students engage with health research led by the Biomedical Research & Training Institute (BRTI).
This programme is being implemented through the following studies:
IMVASK: IMpact of Vertical HIB=V infection on child and Adolescent SKeletal development in Harare
CHIEDZA: Community based interventions to Improve HIV outcomes in young people: A cluster randomised trial in Zimbabwe
VITALITY: VITamin D for Adolescents with HIV to reduce musculoskeletal morbidity and ImmunopaTHologY
ERASE-TB: Early risk assessment in TB contacts by new diagnostics tests
to encourage independent and self-directed scientific curiosity in high school students
to encourage high school students to develop scientific projects in structured fashion
to encourage a structured approach to scientific communication in high school students
to allow high school students to interact with healthcare professionals in science broaden their career aspirations
Science clubs will involve 4 standardized sessions that our research team will solely coordinate and lead in collaboration with school science heads of departments. Each of the sessions are themed around defining science, developing ideas for science projects and projects development, careers talks, science debates and science games/quizzes. The science club curriculum will also involve field trips to the BRTI laboratories during a school term and 2 "two-week research internships" at the various study sites above during school term holidays.
COMMUNITY ADVISORY BOARD
The Importance of the Community Advisory Boards
Community Advisory Boards (CABS) are a key component of the ERASE research trial, and much thought has gone into their composition and role so as to benefit both researchers and the wider community. Those who are enrolled as CAB members represent the interests of the community and serve as leaders in this important relationship, bringing questions and concerns from the community and in turn, in relaying back answers and information. The CAB is also important for disseminating the research results and ensuring those who are research participants are cared for in the correct and ethical manner. Health awareness and disease prevention is also raised within the communities as a result of this partnership.
CABSs are established at all three sites - Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. All include a wide variety of local community leaders such as teachers, nurses, TB preventive-therapy champions, community health workers, youth organisation members, military etc. In addition, there may be former (HIV vaccine) trial participants and other people from key HIV populations, as well as representatives from the LGBT and sex workers associations.
There are of course, regional variances, such as in meeting frequency (monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly), but refresher training is a key feature for all and a collaborative spirit very much encouraged from the onset; the recently established Zimbabwe group has even set up a WhatsApp group!
These volunteers provide a vital strategic link between the community and the ERASE TB study, acting as the eyes and ears of the community as to the progress and conduct of the research. They provide critical feedback on all levels, including any implementation issues, and bring vital community expertise to the research process.