MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Unit (Agincourt)

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Public Engagement Office

The MRC/Wits-Agincourt Unit has been working closely with its host communities for over 30 years. The Unit’s Public Engagement Office (PEO) plays a crucial role in developing constructive relationships with the community and general public, service providers, researchers, fieldworkers, data analysts, administration, and research office. The PEO is responsible for ensuring that the Unit’s longitudinal community-based surveillance work rests on stable long-term relationships that need to be nurtured and fostered.

The primary relationships are between the PEO, the elected village Community Development Forums (CDFs), and the indunas of the 28 villages in the study site. The real public face of the Unit is its field workers, who are trained to conduct informed consent and answer questions from potential participants with sensitivity.

The PEO team is well acquainted with all CDFs, indunas, ward councillors, and local municipal officers in the field site. The team and village leadership enjoy a good working relationship. When required, the PEO meets the CDF either at regular or special meetings. Bi-annual meetings involving the CDFs, indunas, Community Advisory Board members, and Community Development Workers are held at the Agincourt offices. Meetings can be called involving the entire Traditional Council when indunas hold their joint meeting.

The PEO provides advice on community entry and runs community entry after ethics approval. It also provides community, local, district, and provincial service provider feedback. The PEO assists with dealing with ethics of practice issues arising during fieldwork and reports on community entry and feedback.

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