Clinical research to improve care for patients with Lassa fever has been neglected in comparison to other scientific research on the disease. In recent years there have been some developments due to recurrent Lassa outbreaks and lessons learned during West African Ebola outbreak during 2014-2016. Anthropologists and other social scientists have taken on a variety of roles in clinical trials, including studying the ways clinical trials are experienced by targeted communities; working alongside trial participants and health personnel implementers to coordinate community engagement and help implement trials. They have also explored the constitution of trial communities, trial infrastructure, local health systems, clinical research during outbreaks and studied local understandings of clinical research, working beyond the community engagement aspects of clinical trials.
Social Science can provide insights into the design and reception of clinical trials at all stages, from the conception of the protocol and interpretation of it by the different publics; to the development and implementation of appropriate ethical considerations and supporting the acceptability of trials. Social scientists are also increasingly involved as part of ongoing trials, addressing issues with recruitment or retention of patients. Social science work can help to alleviate poor retention by providing guidance, site feedback and training throughout the trial, and offering an assessment on the long term feasibility of a trialled intervention amongst those who the research is meant to serve.
- Understanding of the context and social dynamics
- Involvement and close collaboration with participants in the trial
- Address rumours through dialogue
- Elaboration of leaflets with information about the trial in a language understandable to different publics
- Collaboration between research and community engagement teams