Strategies to Support Sustained Participant Engagement in an Oral Health Promotion Study for Indigenous Children and Their Families in Australia

Publication Name

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health


The health inequities of Indigenous peoples compared with non-Indigenous peoples are significant and long-standing across many countries. Colonisation and dispossession of land and culture has led to profound and devastating consequences on the health of Indigenous peoples. A lack of trust and cultural security of health services remains a barrier to participation in health care services. Similarly, engagement in research activities is also hindered by a history of unethical research practices. Creating partnerships between researchers and Indigenous communities is key in developing research studies that are culturally appropriate, acceptable and relevant to the needs of Indigenous peoples. Baby Teeth Talk was a randomised controlled trial conducted with Indigenous children and their mothers in South Australia that tested an intervention involving dental care, anticipatory guidance on oral health and dietary intake, and motivational interviewing. The study was developed in consultation and partnership with local Indigenous communities in South Australia and overseen by the study’s Aboriginal reference group. The recruitment and retention of participants in the study has been strong over numerous waves of follow-up. The purpose of this paper is to describe the strategies employed in the study that contributed to the successful and sustained engagement of the participants. These strategies included the establishment of an Aboriginal reference group, building relationships with organisations and community, flexibility of appointment scheduling and allocating adequate time, reimbursement for participant time, developing rapport with participants, encouraging participant self-determination, and adaptation of dietary data collection to better suit participants.

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Funding Sponsor

National Health and Medical Research Council



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