What are effective ways of building trust and increasing inclusion of underserved communities in public health research?
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School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, United Kingdom
School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1359
Background and Objectives: Inequalities in public health research engagement have been reported globally; marginalised communities, including ethnic minority groups in the UK, are particularly badly served. This presentation describes co-produced strategies for building trust and increasing inclusion of underserved communities in research. Methods: This study formed one of five Work Packages (WPs) in a nationwide consortium and adopted Community Engagement (CE) and participatory research principles. Distrust caused by previous negative experiences represented major barriers to recruitment from underserved communities. Six actions were taken to build trust and increase inclusion: 1) face-to-face introductory meetings out in the community; 2) early recruitment of CE partners; 3) active involvement of CE partners in project planning, co-chairing and decision-making activities; 4) inviting and responding to feedback about research plans; 5) co-production of participatory workshops; and 6) a transformative action workshop. Results: Widespread inclusion of underserved communities was achieved; six CE partners and 41 research participants from Asian, Black and Mixed ethnicities representing all adult age groups were recruited. Our engagement strategies led to the successful co-production of public health interventions to improve physical activity and healthy eating. This also impacted other WPs resulting in 51 CE partners being enrolled across the consortium. Trust was evident in the active participation of those who had initially declined to take part. Four CE partners attended a policy event at the UK Houses of Parliament. CE partners and participants reported that ethnic minority representation within the research team contributed to building trust. Qualitative feedback also showed study participation improved CE partners’ and participants’ confidence, wellbeing and willingness to engage in future research. Conclusions: Learning from feedback and facilitating underserved communities to actively drive research processes were effective in increasing trust. Such practices are recommended for research in all global contexts to increase inclusion of marginalised communities.