Public engagement is crucial for the success of VITALITY 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.
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.
YOUTH RESEARCHERS ACADEMY
The Youth Researchers Academy (YRA) is a Wellcome Trust funded, 2-week residential training program aimed at training young people on research concepts, methodology and implementation.
A cohort of 18 young people aged between 18 to 24 years of age were chosen to take part in this programme that also focused on skills building, incorporating several activities such as group work, role plays, and games to promote learning through action rather than one-way communication, presentations or lectures. The youth researchers were directed to one of a few proposed research projects and worked with a research mentor to plan a pertinent research question and approach.
The study took a group of youth researchers under its wing and developed a project called 'Experiences of VITALITY participants' that primarily researched how participants were handled by our healthcare workers. Their findings were disseminated in front of relevant stakeholders.
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.
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.
PARTICIPANT ADVISORY BOARD
In keeping with the strong public engagement ethos of Trial VITALITY, it has recently been confirmed (November 2021) that all is in place for the two new Participant Advisory Boards (PAB) to begin their work in Lusaka and in Harare.
At each site, the PAB will provide a strategic link between the study participants and the VITALITY trial by providing a voice for the study participants and community at large. They will also bring the all-important participants’ perspective to the research process, advising of the research team of any issues and concerns raised by participants that may affect the trial.
The terms of reference are in place, and it is agreed that both Boards will include two VITALITY team members. In Zambia, the Board will comprise four community health workers working with adolescents, two trial participants and one representative of the religious groups that are involved in the public engagement program. A parent/guardian will also be selected.
In Zimbabwe, the PAB will include one nurse currently working in the Sally Mugabe Hospital paediatric HIV outpatient clinic, three trial participants and three participant parent/guardians.
Both sites plan to hold their inaugural meetings during the first week in December and thereafter, meetings will be held quarterly.