As global health researchers, we have long embraced the conviction that the answers to complex problems of poverty and disease will reveal themselves if only we apply enough scientific rigor. Yet, at the community level, our group of American and Kenyan investigators has begun to question whether our veneration of rigor is itself contributing to the intractability of certain types of global health problems.
This recent publication, Rethinking our Rigor Mortis: Creating space for more adaptive and inclusive truth-seeking in community-based global health research in Kenya, illustrates examples from our experience among the remote island communities of Lake Victoria, Kenya, and join a chorus of emerging voices, to examine how our culture of control as global health scientists may marginalise truth-seekers and change-makers within communities we seek to serve. More broadly, we seek to acknowledge the limitations of control over truth that rigorous academic research affords. We suggest that by relinquishing this pervasive illusion of control, we can more fully appreciate complementary modes of answering important questions that rely upon the intrinsic resourcefulness and creativity of community-based enterprises taking place across sub-Saharan Africa. While such inquiries may never solve all problems facing the diverse populations of the continent, we advocate for a deeper appreciation of the inherent capacity of adaptive, locally contextualised investigations to identify meaningful and enduring solutions.
The Mfangano Community Health Field Station is a collaborative partnership blooming on the shores of Mfangano in Lake Victoria. For the past year, health practitioners from OHR, Maseno University in Kisumu and University of Minnesota have been working to expand and define how best we can apply knowledge and lessons learning to building resilience among this remote population.