Hibbah Araba Osei-kwasi, a Research Associate on the Dietary transitions in Ghanaian cities project, shares her experiences and key milestones from the first 9 months.

By Hibbah Araba Osei-kwasi – Research Associate

It is over 9 months into our research project and I shall briefly share some experiences and key milestones that we have achieved so far. I am Hibbah Araba Osei-kwasi, I am originally from Ghana but have been based in the UK since 2013 when I started my Ph.D. at the School of Health and Related research (ScHARR), University of Sheffield. I am currently working as a Research Associate on the Dietary transitions in Ghanaian cities project.

The project team meeting with Mr. Gabriel Tagoe at  the Ga Mashie Development Agency

In May 2017, I had the opportunity to visit the study sites in Ghana with Dr. Rebecca Pradeilles, a Research Fellow also working on the project, to part-take in pilot interviews using qualitative 24-hour recalls and Photovoice interviews to assess the factors in people’s social and physical environments that influence their food choice. The data collection was intensive and very insightful.

On the 11th of May, we met at the Ga Mashie Development Agency located in Jamestown, which is the study site in Accra. Our team was led by Dr. Amos Laar of the University of Ghana, who is a co-investigator of the project and lead from the University of Ghana, and the research assistants: Akua Tando, Nathaniel Coleman, Pearl Aovare and Ruthfirst Eva Ayande.

As part of a community entry process, we met Mr. Gabriel Tagoe, the Executive Director of the Ga Mashie Development Agency. Amos introduced the research team and the objectives of our project to him. Mr. Tagoe and his team pledged their support and welcomed the team to Jamestown. The community entry process is crucial for the study because it helps to gain support from the community, ensures the establishment of a good working relationship between the researchers and the community and helps to inform the researchers about cultural norms that exist within the community.

We immediately started piloting data collection, working in groups of two, with Rebecca, Amos and I observing the process. We walked through the streets of Jamestown, screening and identifying participants for interviews and for anthropometric measurements. Interviews lasted between 30-60 minutes. Over the next three days we conducted several 24 hour recalls and the end of each day, we had a debrief; highlighting the challenges of the day and discussed what we could do to address these challenges and also ensure a rigorous data collection process. During the interviews we realised most women were busy and engaged during the day in selling or other activities and so we had to work around their schedule. For instance, sit with them whilst they sold food, wait when they were attending to a customer and resume when free again.

Walking through the streets of Jamestown

After a few days in Jamestown, we travelled by road to Ho, the other study site in Ghana. We were warmly welcomed by the co-investigator from the University of Allied Health Sciences, Professor Francis Zotor. On the morning of the 14th of May 2017, Francis picked us up from our hotel and took us to pay a courtesy call to the vice –chancellor at the University of Allied and Health Sciences. We then went to the field, started going from house to house to identify participants for the pilot interviews. Over three days of stay in Ho, we conducted 24-hour recalls with women and adolescent girls and also piloted the Photovoice exercise. Photovoice allows us to give a voice to the community and we are very excited about the future photography exhibitions that will come from using this research method as a means of feeding back our findings.

A photograph taken by one of the research assistants during the Photovoice training

Ho is not as densely populated as Jamestown, so we needed to walk a lot more to be able to identify participants for interviews. Like we did in Accra, we met after each day’s interviews to discuss the practical challenges we had and what we can do to improve the tools and the data collection procedure. One of the challenges was the difficulty in recruiting participants because most people worked out of home, unlike in Jamestown. We decided one strategy was to conduct interviews later during the day or collect data during the weekends when most people were home. After, 3 days in Ho, we left and Accra and flew back to the UK soon afterwards.          

Philip Kofie and Samuel Darrah – Research Assistants walking through the
streets in Ho to identify participants

The research assistants in Ghana worked tirelessly over the following weeks and were in constant communication with the research team in the UK through skype and email.

With the 24 hour recalls now completed, and data management and analysis in progress, the research assistants have now started the photovoice interviews and testing the GIS mapping. The GIS mapping of the food environments will allow us to identify and record the location and type of food outlet, and all instances of external marketing of foods and beverages and we have regular updates during our monthly skype meetings.

Being part of this project has been very fulfilling to me both professionally and socially because I work with an international multi-disciplinary team, using innovative research methods and so I have the opportunity not only to contribute but also to learn. This has not been without a few challenges, however, I think so far, work has progressed well due to our constant communication, good leadership, respect and tolerance for each other.