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The initial publication, in 1984, of the United Nations University's "Field Guide for the Study of Health-Seeking at the Household Level", developed in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), described the application of anthropological methods to nutrition and other health interventions. These included conversations, guided interviews, direct observation and participant observation. Subsequent field experience led to the addition of the focus group method to the RAP methodology and its use was incorporated into the latest RAP Guidelines, first published in 1987. However, as focus group methods have great value in the fields of medicine and public health, the present manual expands upon the method in considerably more detail than was possible in the previous Guidelines.
The Focus Group Manual was originally developed as a collaborative activity between the Tropical Health Program, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, and the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), WHO. It is intended for social science and medical researchers who require information quickly on a particular topic of study. The focus group is an effective way of obtaining such information, and of providing a good estimate of the range of opinion in a community with respect to the topic of interest. It is therefore useful for selecting communities with particular characteristics for an intervention, or for providing baseline information relevant to the development of questionnaires for more quantitative study. However, the focus group technique must also be used properly if it is to have any validity, and this manual provides a step-by-step, easy to read and follow, set of instructions. It will be of considerable use to those already involved in RAP, or to those who would like to become familiar with aspects of RAP methodologies.
TDR is delighted to collaborate with the United Nations University in this publication, as it will facilitate the wider dissemination of this important tool to researchers throughout the world.
Carol Vlassoff, Secretary
Steering Committee for Social and Economic Research
Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases
World Health Organization
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