Designing a Community Engagement Framework for a New Dengue Control Method: A Case Study from Central Vietnam
Duong, Thi Thu Huong
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Background The Wolbachia strategy aims to manipulate mosquito populations to make them incapable of transmitting dengue viruses between people. To test its efficacy, this strategy requires field trials. Public consultation and engagement are recognized as critical to the future success of these programs, but questions remain regarding how to proceed. This paper reports on a case study where social research was used to design a community engagement framework for a new dengue control method, at a potential release site in central Vietnam. Methodology/Principal Findings The approach described here, draws on an anthropological methodology and uses both qualitative and quantitative methods to design an engagement framework tailored to the concerns, expectations, and socio-political setting of a potential trial release site for Wolbachia-infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The process, research activities, key findings and how these were responded to are described. Safety of the method to humans and the environment was the most common and significant concern, followed by efficacy and impact on local lives. Residents expected to be fully informed and engaged about the science, the project, its safety, the release and who would be responsible should something go wrong. They desired a level of engagement that included regular updates and authorization from government and at least one member of every household at the release site. Conclusions/Significance Results demonstrate that social research can provide important and reliable insights into public concerns and expectations at a potential release site, as well as guidance on how these might be addressed. Findings support the argument that using research to develop more targeted, engagement frameworks can lead to more sensitive, thorough, culturally comprehensible and therefore ethical consultation processes. This approach has now been used successfully to seek public input and eventually support for releases Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes, in two different international settings - Australia and Vietnam.