Evidence Library

Title: Field research with underserved minorities: The ideal and the real.
Author: Stiffman, A., Freedenthal, S., Brown, E., Ostmann, E. & Hibbeler, P.
Date Published: 2005
Reference: Journal of Urban Health, 82 (2, Suppl 3), iii56-iii66.
Are service users or carers authors: No/Not Known


This article describes the realities of doing field research with high-risk, minority populations. It reports on the problems that researchers faced when working on a study of American Indian youth.

The researchers initially set up a Research Implementation Team (RIT) composed of tribal elders, council members, parents and youth from the community. They asked that the study specifically look at risk of abuse, HIV risk related behaviour, gay and lesbian activity, drug abuse and mental health issues. They also helped develop the protocol. However there was then a three year delay while the researchers sought funding. When the study was finally funded, the RIT members had changed. The new members raised many concerns about the study, for example cultural sensitivities around the discussion of topics such as sexual behaviour. The protocol was therefore changed considerably. The focus was directed towards community strengths rather than problems and youth participants were given the option to 'skip out' certain sections of the survey. The RIT also wanted to offer services to youths who were identified in the interview as having problems. This required developing a clear process to help the researchers know when to intervene and how best to encourage uptake of services and record the outcome of this discussion. A surprisingly large number of the interviewees were found to have a problem that required directing them to services (90%).

The researchers emphasise that making all these changes to the design in no way compromised the collection of data or participation in a follow-up study three years later. So while there were challenges in responding to the requests from the community in a way that would not compromise the research, ultimately this balancing act accelerated the end goal of the project - to translate the findings into practice and action.

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Categories: health
public health
Identifying topics, prioritising and commissioning
Designing research
Managing research
Undertaking research
impact on research
impact on implementation and change
impact of public involvement
journal article
Implementation and change

Date Entered: 2009/01/28

Date Edited: 2012/12/06

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