Article Abstract

Using participatory methods to build an mHealth intervention for female entertainment workers in Cambodia: the development of the Mobile Link project

Authors: Pheak Chhoun, Kathryn C. Kaplan, Carlijn Wieten, Ida Jelveh, Mitchell Lienemann, Sovannary Tuot, Siyan Yi, Carinne Brody

Abstract

Background: The HIV epidemic in Cambodia is strongly and disproportionately concentrated among key populations. One important hard-to-reach key population is the expanding community of female entertainment workers (FEWs). HIV as well as other sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), contraception, and gynecologic health are also substandard among FEWs. To address these concerns, a mobile health intervention (mHealth) using short message service (SMS) and voice message (VM) services—the Mobile Link project—was constructed. This paper aims to describe the development of this mHealth intervention that used participatory methodologies and to illustrate how these findings can be useful in future mHealth projects.
Methods: This intervention development process used an iterative, participatory approach. Twenty-seven focus group discussions (FGDs) covering SRH topics were designed and conducted and implemented across four provinces in Cambodia. Additionally, six in-depth interviews (IDIs) were conducted with FEWs living with HIV in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Data from the FGDs and IDIs were analyzed using content and matrix analysis methods to identify prioritized themes for messages. Two data validation workshops were organized to present the prioritized themes to FEWs and outreach workers (outreach workers) for validation. The workshops included activities stimulating participation such as listening to sample messages in order to determine health priorities as well as message tone and style.
Results: The findings from the qualitative research provided guidance on how to tailor the intervention to the FEW community in terms of the tone, timing, content and delivery mode of the messages. Participants preferred a friendly, professional female voice for VM. Participants revealed that health priorities such as gynecologic issues (vaginal infections/irritation) and cervical and breast cancer, were emphasized more than HIV and family planning. Participants also reported a number of misconceptions about contraception, particularly around oral contraceptives and intrauterine devices, and STI transmission. Participants expressed the need to build trust in outreach workers and linkages, affirming the emphasis on the link within the Mobile Link project. Lastly, from the IDIs, FEWs living with HIV highlighted wanting supportive/messages to address depressive feelings that may stem from their perceived stigma.
Conclusions: Utilizing participatory methodologies was demonstrated to be useful in intervention content creation and program implementation. As a result of this intervention development process, the research team gleaned lessons that may be applicable to future mHealth projects including the idea of adding some layers of choice to mHealth interventions for further tailoring at the individual level and the importance of human contact and trusting relationship.