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Reflections on the development and utility of a participatory community violence surveillance methodology

Deborah Isobell
Naiema Taliep
Sandy Lazarus
Mohamed Seedat
Esmeralda Toerien
Anna James


The goal of this study was to illustrate the development and utility of a community violence surveillance methodology, as a component of a larger participatory violence prevention project in a low-income South African community. Using focus group discussions, data were collected from 12 community and academic research
partners. These discussions were audio recorded, transcribed and then thematically analysed. The findings revealed that the participatory orientation to the research enabled researchers to develop an instrument that was appropriate for the community, collaboratively. The collaborative creation of the violence surveillance questionnaire and the use of community members to implement the system after intensive capacity building instilled a sense of ownership and promoted sustainability in this project. In addition, data generated by the surveillance system provided baseline and prevalence data which could be used to advocate for violence prevention and develop relevant interventions. This process also resulted in the provision of victim support through debriefing and referrals. Future research could focus on developing and implementing similar surveillance systems in communities and monitoring the effects thereof over time.

Keywords: participatory, community, violence surveillance methodology