Aligning community engagement with traditional authority structures in global health research: a case study from northern Ghana

Am J Public Health. 2011 Oct;101(10):1857-67. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300203. Epub 2011 Aug 18.


Despite the recognition of its importance, guidance on community engagement practices for researchers remains underdeveloped, and there is little empirical evidence of what makes community engagement effective in biomedical research. We chose to study the Navrongo Health Research Centre in northern Ghana because of its well-established community engagement practices and because of the opportunity it afforded to examine community engagement in a traditional African setting. Our findings suggest that specific preexisting features of the community have greatly facilitated community engagement and that using traditional community engagement mechanisms limits the social disruption associated with research conducted by outsiders. Finally, even in seemingly ideal, small, and homogeneous communities, cultural issues exist, such as gender inequities, that may not be effectively addressed by traditional practices alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / organization & administration*
  • Community Participation*
  • Focus Groups
  • Ghana
  • Humans
  • Local Government
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • State Government