In the West African nation of Togo mid-level health workers are being routinely trained to conduct focus-group interviews with mothers of children under five. The intent is to establish qualitative data bases that complement conventional survey data. The authors document the findings of a five-day training programme during which health workers collected data from 81 focus groups (324 mothers). Two unanticipated effects emerged: firstly that the focus group method democratized data gathering by forcing health workers out of their perceived roles as experts and teachers; secondly that by stimulating this shift in roles community competence was enhanced, thereby promoting collaborative programme planning by health workers and target villages. Evidence is given that focus-group discussions paved the way for highly successful education campaigns which dramatically increased child vaccination rates.
This excellent article will be of interest to government health managers in any developing country considering institutionalising focus-group discussions. The authors discussion of focus groups within the context of a social marketing strategy will be of interest to health researchers.
IIED G2 JT2