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Involving seldom-heard groups in a PPI process to inform the design of a proposed trial on the use of probiotics to prevent preterm birth: a case study

Rayment, J., Lanlehin, R., McCourt, C. & Husain, S. M. (2017). Involving seldom-heard groups in a PPI process to inform the design of a proposed trial on the use of probiotics to prevent preterm birth: a case study. Research Involvement and Engagement, 3(1), 11. doi: 10.1186/s40900-017-0061-3


Patient and public involvement (PPI) is an important tool in approaching research challenges. However, involvement of socially and ethnically diverse populations remains limited and practitioners need effective methods of involving a broad section of the population in planning and designing research.

In preparation for the development of a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) on the use of probiotics to prevent preterm birth, we conducted a public consultation exercise in a socially disadvantaged and ethnically diverse community. The consultation aimed to meet and engage local service users in considering the acceptability of the proposed protocol, and to encourage their participation in future and ongoing patient and public involvement activities. Four discussion groups were held in the community with mothers of young children within the proposed trial region, using an inclusive approach that incorporated a modified version of the Nominal Group Technique (NGT). Bringing the consultation to the community supported the involvement of often seldom-heard participants, such as those from minority ethnic groups.

The women involved expressed a number of concerns about the proposed protocol, including adherence to the probiotic supplement regimen and randomisation. The proposal for the RCT in itself was perceived as confirmation that probiotic supplements had potentially beneficial effects, but also that they had potentially harmful side-effects. The complexity of the women’s responses provided greater insights into the challenges of even quite simple trial designs and enabled the research team to take these concerns into account while planning the pilot trial.

The use of the NGT method allowed for a consultation of a population traditionally less likely to participate in medical research. A carefully facilitated PPI exercise can allow members to express unanticipated concerns that may not have been elicited by a survey method. Findings from such exercises can be utilised to improve clinical trial design, provide insight into the feasibility of trials, and enable engagement of often excluded population groups.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Clinical trial acceptability, Feasibility studies, Patient and public involvement, Advisory groups, Public understanding of clinical trials, Women’s health
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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