Engaging Delft in Heart Health
Contributor: Gill Black
Our Heart of the Matter (HOTM) project brought together nineteen dynamic Delft community members in a unique partnership with a group of cardiovascular disease (CVD) research scientists from Stellenbosch University (SU) led by Professor Hans Strijdom. The project came to a successful conclusion at a well-attended engagement event held in the Delft Civic Centre in October. All project participants took to the stage with enthusiasm and pride to present their novel photobook and the two short collaborative films they had made, which were seen by an audience of over 120 Delft community members.
The photobook, which was developed through a photovoice approach, shows the variety of food types that are available in the urban township of Delft, describes key factors that influence the food choices of people who live there, and illuminates different perspectives on what healthy eating means.
The two films, Your Health is Your Wealth and For a Better Life, were collectively designed, scripted and recorded by the Delft project participants. The first film illustrates the ways in which heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and diabetes have impacted the lives of Delft youth. It also describes what the youth participants think can and should be done to address the heart disease epidemic that is ‘’tearing our families apart’’. The second film explores the Delft participants’ knowledge about what is driving the high prevalence of heart disease in their community, and illustrates how their regular engagement with the group of CVD research scientists over nine months augmented their awareness about the health implications of food and lifestyle choices.
Activities at the October engagement event also included question and answer sessions to gauge and amplify the learning that was happening in the room as the event progressed. Many questions about heart disease that had been asked by the Delft participants during project workshops were given carefully prepared and thorough answers by the CVD research team, with the intention of sharing this knowledge with all in attendance. The action-packed programme included energetic dancing and singing performances by local artists which were thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by everyone who was there.
We hope that the HOTM project provides an example of how participatory community engagement in biomedical research can be an enjoyable process of knowledge exchange and co-learning, and that when given enough space and time, it can help to build respectful and trusting relationships between community members and biomedical researchers.
The Heart of the Matter project was supported by a Wellcome International Engagement grant awarded to SLF director and co-founder, Gill Black, in 2015.
‘I have realised the value of having our research ultimately translated to our communities in an understandable manner. At the end of the day, these are the people we are doing it for’.
Dr. Shantal Windvogel; Senior Lecturer, CVD Research Group, Stellenbosch University