The Value in Conversations – Andy Stringer

The aim of our research project is to better understand the behavioral determinants and human motivations for prescribing and using antimicrobials in Ethiopia.

Drugs cabinet with Antimicrobials clearly labelled.

We are prioritizing two very different populations in this project, those that prescribe antimicrobials (animal health professionals) and those that purchase and use antimicrobials (semi-intensive poultry producers). The project involved using focus group discussions with these two groups to explore themes surrounding antimicrobial use and prescribing behaviors.

Our project made the decision to use a qualitative approach to answer the research questions identified. So, what is the value in using a qualitative approach, such as focus group discussions, rather than a quantitative approach? Focus group discussions typically involve 6-10 study participants and are facilitated by a trained individual. In our project, an Ethiopian veterinarian working as a Research Assistant in our research group, facilitated the focus group discussions.

Ethiopian veterinarian working as a Research Assistant in our research group facilitating the focus group discussions.

Focus group discussions allow flexibility and facilitate an exploratory purpose to research. They allow study participants to play an active role in the research study, and allow researchers to ascertain a more accurate picture of the context surrounding the study.

Focus group discussions allow researchers to gather a broad range of perspectives and understand group dynamics. They are useful when studying social norms and when trying to develop a deeper understanding of local contexts and challenges. In our study, we utilized a topic guide developed ahead of the group discussions to guide the conversations. These included questions on the following topics: perceptions of antimicrobials and their usage, current antimicrobial use, responsibility and future options. The facilitator guided the discussions and ensured all areas in the topic guide were covered, while allowing free conversation to develop. Conversations were audio recorded and will then be transcribed into written English for data analysis purposes. Thematic analysis techniques will be used to analyze transcripts using qualitative software.

The data gathered from these discussions on the prescribing and use of antimicrobials by Ethiopia animal health professionals and semi-intensive poultry producers will facilitate the design and development of culturally appropriate interventions focused on mitigating the impact of antimicrobial resistance. We hope to share this data openly in early 2020.