Factors that influence research participants’ understanding of informed consent: evidence from Kapseret in Uasin Gishu County, Kenya

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Katwa, Joseph Kigen

This paper examines the factors that influence research participants’ understanding of informed consent and their willingness to participate in health-related research. The paper is based on a study that sought to ascertain the extent to which research participants in Kapseret sub-urban in Uasin Gishu County understood informed consent in the researches they had already participated in at the time of the current study. The research was informed by the fact that although participants do often give uninformed consent, in some cases they seemed not to have understood the content of the consent forms they signed. There are instances when participants have taken part in research programmes whose aims they did not understand in the first place. In other instances, participants may not be aware that they are involved in a research for which they have given consent. Such cases are common in various parts of the world where health-related research is conducted and Kenya is no exception. The main objective of the research was to examine the factors that motivated research participants who had been involved in research to understand and sign informed consent. A cross-sectional study was done using in-depth interviews and qualitative data. Focus Group Discussion (FGD) was used for data collection. The target population was exclusively people who had participated in health-related research and who resided at Kapseret. Snowball sampling method was used to select 102 participants of both genders. They were divided into 12 focus groups discussion of 8 to 9 members each. To have homogeneous groups, gender, age and educational level were considered when forming the groups. To enable the FGDs to discuss intimate issues freely, participants of the same age group were placed together. Males and females were grouped separately. Collected data was transcribed and FGD-generated themes which were finally analysed. Participants showed evidence of having understood and given informed consent before taking part in health-related research. However, their consent seems to have been influenced by other factors which they gave more priority. As such, an IRB requirement demand that participants understand consent forms before signing, the reality at the research site is different. Before assenting to take part in a research, participants would want to know the benefits that would accrue to them. An example is that of participants’ valuing money paid as transport refund so much that it seems to be compelling them into joining research. There is a greater need to educate research participants concerning research and benefits. As much as justice demands that participants should benefit from what they have participated in, it should be made clear to the participants that the said benefit comes if the research yields positive results.

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