Exploring community perceptions in preparation for a randomised controlled trial of biofortified flour in Pakistan

Mahboob, Usman, Ohly, Heather orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2493-5834, Joy, Edward J. M., Moran, Victoria Louise orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3165-4448, Zaman, Mukhtiar and Lowe, Nicola M orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6934-2768 (2020) Exploring community perceptions in preparation for a randomised controlled trial of biofortified flour in Pakistan. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 6 (117).

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40814-020-00664-4


Background: Biofortification of staple food crops may be a cost-effective and sustainable approach to reducing micronutrient deficiencies in resource-poor settings with low dietary diversity. However, its success depends on uptake by the local population. This paper presents formative research conducted in a remote, rural community in North West Pakistan, prior to commencing a randomised controlled trial to test the effectiveness of consuming zinc-biofortified wheat flour for alleviating zinc deficiency. It explored local community members’ knowledge, understanding and attitudes towards biofortification and views on members of their community taking part in the trial. Methods: Four focus group discussions were conducted with male and female community members (separately for cultural reasons) and four in-depth interviews were conducted with Jirga members—respected male elders. Participation was limited to households that were ineligible for the trial so that we could explore the perspectives of community members who were not influenced by the incentives of the trial. Focus group participants were selected at community events for transparency. Data collection took place at the local school and homes of Jirga members. Thematic analysis was undertaken, using a combination of deductive and inductive approaches to identify key themes. Results: A total of 47 men and women participated in this study. Participants reported clear motivation to access and consume more nutritious flour, believing this would bring health benefits, particularly to women and children. Trusted members of the local community, including Jirga members and female health workers, should be involved in providing information on biofortified flour (and the trial) to increase levels of awareness and acceptance. Without their involvement, there is a risk that biofortified flour would be mistrusted. The cost of flour is the main factor affecting purchasing decisions, and biofortified flour will need to be cost-competitive to achieve widespread uptake in marginalised, rural communities. Conclusion: This formative study generated rich, qualitative data from a range of community stakeholders to improve the understanding of important barriers and facilitators to the widespread acceptability and adoption of biofortified wheat. Implementation research such as this will inform future decision-making in relation to scaling up biofortified wheat in Pakistan.

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