The prevalence of oral HPV infection and HPV-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) among Indigenous Australians is unknown. This paper outlines the engagement, consultation and recruitment strategies for a study involving investigation of HPV and OPSCC among Indigenous South Australians, based on the consolidated criteria for strengthening the reporting of health research involving Indigenous Peoples (CONSIDER) statement.
Initial consultations with all interested Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) were done throughout 2014 and 2015. This resulted in a funding application submitted that reflected Indigenous community views and inputs in study design and methodology, and which included nine Indigenous investigators. Once funding was received, community consultation was again undertaken, with six ACCHOs providing structures, strategies and recommendations for how recruitment for participants taking part in the study should be undertaken. Staff were hired, with non-Indigenous staff undertaking extensive cultural competency training. An Indigenous Reference Group was established to provide oversight and cultural guidance. Recruitment of Indigenous participants by trained field officers occurred between Feb 2018 and Dec 2018, with recruited. Qualitative records summarising research staff contact with ACCHOs and participants were documented. These records, together with field trip notes, key ACCHO stakeholder reflections and research staff comments, were reviewed to summarise the culturally sensitive strategies that appeared to work most successfully to facilitate ACCHO and participant buy-in.
Findings were documented against the CONSIDER statement’s research reporting framework of governance: relationships, prioritisation, methodologies, participation, capacity, analysis and findings, and dissemination. The apparent success of the community engagement processes were then conceptualised into five domains: engaging with ACCHOs as equal partners very early in the research process; having an Indigenous Reference Group; ACCHOs actively promoting the study; having a flexible agenda responsive to broader environment demands and; including Indigenous capacity building.
Consultation and engagement with all sectors of the Indigenous community are essential in any research, especially a project involving HPV and OPSCC. Enabling local Indigenous staff to provide cultural guidance throughout the research process is helpful. Research that is culturally respectful and in partnership with Indigenous groups can be embraced when the research is collaborative and has clear translational benefits. The CONSIDER statement is a useful checklist against which to assess Indigenous health research processes. In future, the findings may be useful to yield important Aboriginal population estimates for both oral HPV infection and OPSCC. This may serve to convince funding bodies to provide health promotion personnel in the field of oral health, specifically OPSCC, in ACCHOs.