Participatory rural appraisal techniques in disenfranchised communities: a Kenyan case study

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BackgroundDeveloping countries have made great progress in the field of health. However, disparities exist in the distribution of healthcare services. Given the lifestyle of the nomadic Somali community, very little was known about their perceptions about preventive healthcare services or their health needs in general. The best source of information regarding these matters is the community itself.ObjectiveTo apply participatory rapid rural appraisal techniques to health needs and plan nursing services for a disenfranchised, nomadic Somali community of north-eastern Kenya.MethodsParticipatory rural appraisal (PRA) is an innovative approach to data collection in participatory research. The philosophy is that the researcher is required to acknowledge and appreciate that the research participants have the necessary knowledge and skills to be partners in the whole research process. Illuminating data were collected in late 1999 using PRA techniques, which underscored the Somali community's perception of the healthcare services and how they could be improved to suit their nomadic lifestyle.FindingsThe nomads diagrammatically described their seasonal movements extensively and postulated that these could be used for planning mobile/outreach services for the community. The study also reveals how the current nursing services have failed to utilize the intricate information network of the community.Implications for practiceNursing personnel need to make friendly participatory relationships with a better understanding of communities' health problems and their socio-cultural practices in order to ensure efficient and effective nursing services.

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