Strategies for Meaningful Engagement between Community-Based Health Researchers and First Nations Participants
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Schroth, Robert J.
Lawrence, Herenia P.
Cidro, Jaime, Marion Maar, Sabrina Peressini, Robert J. Schroth, John Broughton, Lisa Jamieson, and Herenia P. Lawrence. “Strategies for Meaningful Engagement between Community-Based Health Researchers and First Nations Participants.” Frontiers in Public Health, 5(138) (2017): 1-15. DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2017.00138.
The Baby Teeth Talk Study (BTT) is a partnership-based research project looking at interventions to prevent early childhood caries (ECC) in First Nations populations in Canada. Community-based researchers (CBRs) conducted preventive and behavioral interventions that targeted expectant mothers and their newborns, over a 3-year period. The work of the CBRs requires a great deal of training and skills to administer the interventions. It also requires a broad set of strategies to meaningfully engage participants to make health-promoting changes in their behavior to prevent ECC in their children. After implementing the intervention, BTT CBRs participated in interviews to explore the strategies they employed to engage participants in the prevention of ECC. CBRs perceived two key strategies as essential for meaningful engagement with BTT participants. First, CBRs indicated that their shared experiences through motherhood, First Nations identity, age, and childhood experience provided a positive foundation for dialog with participants that lead to build trust and rapport. Second, supportive interpersonal and culturally based communication skills of the CBR provided further foundation to engage with participants from a strength-based approach. For example, the CBRs knew how to effectively communicate in ways such as being gentle, non-intrusive, and avoiding any perception of judgment when discussing oral health behavior. In First Nations health research, CBRs can provide an essential link in engaging participants and the community for improvements in health. Researchers should carefully consider characteristics such as shared experience and ability to understand cultural communication styles when hiring CBRs in order to build a solid foundation of trust with research participants.