13.2  Identifying problems for further investigation

All research starts with the existence of a problem, or a perceived difficulty. For example, in your community survey findings you may be aware that there are a lot of malaria cases, or that female genital mutilation (FGM) is occurring and is causing severe health problems for women later in their lives. A small-scale research study could help you clarify the causes of the problem and perhaps point to ways that the situation could be improved.

  • Think for a few minutes about what you consider to be the most important health problems in the community that you live in now. Make a list of three health issues that are present in that community and that you think might benefit from further research.

  • Of course the details of health problems in each area are different, so we don’t know what you identified in your area. Nationally, the major health problems are malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB, diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases, and deaths among newborns and women during and soon after childbirth. It is likely that at least some of these are priorities in your community.

We have chosen to illustrate how you could research a common health problem by describing an imaginary research project on malaria in a rural community.

13.1.1  Components of a community profile report

13.2.1  Clarifying the problem of malaria infection in your community