Pivoting during the pandemic: Adapting research priorities to address community engagement with COVID-19 in Western Kenya

Evance Ogola, Elias Owour Pande, Alex Dusek, Marali Singaraju, John Odhiambo, Brian Mattah, Samwel Karan, David Marshall, Scholarstica Atieno, Ananda Vigneswari Anebarassou, Neamatallah Elsayed, Lavinah Chikamai, Aimee Carlson, Lily Muldoon, David S Wilsey, Louisa Ndunyu, Charles Salmen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Among the many profound disruptions created by COVID-19 around the world, the pandemic has greatly tested community-based research endeavours that rely upon international collaboration and face-to-face interactions in rural communities. Our group of Kenyan and American investigators based on remote Mfangano Island on Lake Victoria experienced numerous challenges due to travel restrictions, safety guidelines, and funding interruptions, forcing us to rapidly adapt objectives as conditions evolved in real time. Here we describe our effort to adjust the priorities of the MOMENTUM study, a longitudinal maternal health study, to support a community-driven response to the initial COVID-19 surge in 2020 and the subsequent Delta wave in 2021. Through a dynamic participatory process, our group identified and implemented three COVID-19 engagement strategies including, (i) printed COVID-19 factsheets for local distribution, (ii) vernacular radio programming on a popular local radio station, and (iii) targeted COVID-19 vaccine promotion among key community opinion leaders. We provide a review of the strengths, challenges, and local perspectives regarding these strategies. Due to notable limitations, such as our inability to compare outcomes with similar control populations, and the nature of the specific strategies designed to address the unique needs of these island populations, this report is not intended to provide definitive or generalizable conclusions regarding the impact of a COVID-19 intervention. We present our experience as an illustrative example of how community-based research collaborations can utilize their embedded networks to develop adaptive responses to unexpected public health threats. Most notably, the transition to virtual collaboration facilitated a long-overdue recentering of operational and strategic leadership into the hands of our Kenyan team. This aligned reality on the ground with our long-stated rhetoric regarding North-South equity in design and implementation. Ultimately, our experience in Kenya suggests that amid ongoing disruptions created by a pandemic, there exists both a responsibility to respond to evolving community needs and an opportunity to remodel global health partnerships for improved equity and long-term impact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022047
JournalJournal of Global Health Reports
StatePublished - 2022

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© 2022, International Society of Global Health. All rights reserved.


  • Community Health
  • COVID 19
  • Equity and Inclusion
  • Kenya
  • Participatory Research


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