Lessons from participatory community mapping to inform neglected tropical disease programmes in Nigeria
Background: Participatory research methods promote collaborations between researchers and communities to collectively overcome implementation challenges for sustainable social change. Programmes usually take a top-down approach to addressing such challenges. This study developed and piloted contextualised participatory methods to identify community structures that could improve the equity of medicine administration for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in northern and southern Nigeria.
Methods: Participants and researchers conducted transect walks and social mapping to understand which community-based structures could be used to maximise accessibility and acceptability of medicines for NTDs.
Results: Using visual participatory methods with a diverse set of stakeholders facilitated the identification of new structures within the community that could be used to improve the equity of medicine distribution and access. Available materials such as sticks, stones and leaves were appropriately used by respondents in the rural areas, which increased meaningful engagement irrespective of their literacy level. Structures identified included Qur'anic schools, football grounds, mechanics shops, shrines, village head's houses and worship centres. Challenges in using these structures for medicine distribution included resistance from school authorities and restrictions to women's access due to traditions and norms, particularly within palaces and mosques.
Conclusions: This article highlights the importance of meaningful community engagement methods and engaging gatekeepers in visual participatory methods. It emphasizes the importance of including divergent views of various population groups in order to ensure that all communities are reached by NTDs programmes.