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Principal Investigator: Sian White, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

Research Snapshot: Listening to communities improves outbreak response

Community engagement has been recognised as a core pillar of outbreak response. This study found evidence that a new approach, the Community Perceptions Tracker (CPT), helped to track trends in community attitudes towards the COVID-19 pandemic which then informed adaptations to preventative programmes.

View snapshot


The aim of the research is to understand how community perceptions towards COVID-19 and response programmes change over the course of the outbreak. The findings are intended to improve the quality of community engagement and behaviour change communication programmes so as to strengthen communities’ trust and acceptability of these processes. This research will explore three objectives:

  1. Understand how community perceptions change over the course of the COVID-19 outbreak;
  2. Understand whether the Community Perception Tracker (CPT) enables staff within humanitarian organisations to make more informed decisions and adjust programming accordingly;
  3. Understand whether adjustments made to COVID-19 response programmes are seen to be more acceptable to communities and result in perceivable behavioural change.

Sian White

Principal Investigator, LSHTM

The CPT is a novel approach for enabling community engagement throughout the course of an outbreak. By conducting this research, we hope to understand how it is utilised by staff to improve programmes and whether this results in meaningful improvements for populations. LSHTM are excited that this research will also enable us to strengthen local research capacity.

Expected Outcomes

This research will lead to improved understanding of behavioural enablers and barriers for communities affected by COVID-19. It will enable humanitarian actors to rapidly adapt and correct their programme activities in line with people’s understanding, priorities and needs, with resulting behaviour change that helps minimise infection risks.

Key outputs from the research will be a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework for use of the CPT in public health programmes. We will also publish two articles in peer-reviewed journals, which we anticipate will be widely read and disseminated by various global networks and platforms.

The CPT data will be used to influence decision-making mechanisms that communities cannot access on their own. If the findings show evidence of improved programming and behavioural outcomes, Action Contre la Faim (ACF) is poised to expand the CPT to other locations in line with their strategic plan, while Oxfam will use the research to strengthen community engagement as one of the key pillars of its humanitarian strategy.

Ghassan Gharzeddine, a Research Assistant at Oxfam conducts remote phone interviews with Syrian Refugees in Lebanon. (Credit: Oxfam, Jihad AbdulGhani)
The ACF research team assessing handwashing facilities in Zimbabwe in the drought-affected areas where ACF and partners are working. (Credit: ACF)
Action Contre la Faim (ACF) Country Director Zimbabwe speaking to quarantine returnees about their experience. Photographer: Taku Ngirazie, ACF
Fred Karembo from ACF's local nutrition and food security partner Nutrition Action Zimbabwe (NAZ) speaking to young mothers currently at a quarantine centre in Mutare, Zimbabwe about how they are keeping themselves and their infants healthy during this time. Photographer: Taku Ngirazie, ACF
A Nabad staff member documents COVID-19 related perceptions on his mobile device while speaking with a woman in a settlement for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon. Credit: Oxfam

Latest Updates

Lessons learned about adaptive research design during the pandemic

7 Jun 2021

In this blog the team reflect on using the Community Perception Tracker approach, and how they have used the unusual pandemic context to strengthen elements of their research.


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