The unreachable doorbells of South Texas: community engagement in colonias on the US-Mexico border for mosquito control.
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Mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit continue to place millions of people at risk of infection around the world. Novel methods of vector control are being developed to provide public health officials with the necessary tools to prevent disease transmission and reduce local mosquito populations. However, these methods will require public acceptance for a sustainable approach and evaluations at local settings. We present our efforts in community engagement carried out in colonias of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in south Texas for mosquito surveillance, control, and ecological projects. Along the US-Mexico border the term colonia refers to impoverished communities that are usually inhabited by families of Hispanic heritage. The different engagements were carried out from September 2016 to February 2019; during this time, we had three distinct phases for community engagement. In Phase 1 we show the initial approach to the colonias in which we assessed security and willingness to participate; in Phase 2 we carried out the first recruitment procedure involving community meetings and house-to-house recruitment; and in Phase 3 we conducted a modified recruitment procedure based on community members' input. Our findings show that incorporating community members in the development of communication materials and following their suggestions for engagement allowed us to generate culturally sensitive recruitment materials and to better understand the social relationships and power dynamics within these communities. We were able to effectively reach a larger portion of the community and decrease the dropout rate of participants. Progress gained with building trust in the communities allowed us to convey participant risks and benefits of collaborating with our research projects. Community engagement should be viewed as a key component of any local vector control program as well as for any scientific research project related to vector control. Even in the face of budgetary constraints, small efforts in community engagement go a long way.
author list (cited authors)
Juarez, J. G., Carbajal, E., Dickinson, K. L., Garcia-Luna, S., Vuong, N., Mutebi, J., ... Hamer, G. L.
complete list of authors
Juarez, Jose G||Carbajal, Ester||Dickinson, Katherine L||Garcia-Luna, Selene||Vuong, Nga||Mutebi, John-Paul||Hemme, Ryan R||Badillo-Vargas, Ismael||Hamer, Gabriel L