Lay contributions to a sexual health survey of substance misusing women

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019


1. To identify sexual health risks and morbidities, and sexual health service use among substance-misusing women

2. To determine the impact of service user collaboration on research methodology


As part of an NIHR-funded study to model sexual healthcare provision for substance-misusing women, a survey of sexual health risks, morbidites and service use was undertaken. To maximise study efficiency and ethical quality, women with substance misuse histories were recruited as lay researchers through treatment agencies, using a ‘role description’ detailing required skills and commitment.


Data collection took place at SMS/CRI and ‘Seaview’ Wellbeing Centre, Hastings & St.Leonards


All substance-misusing women in the area were eligible- the intention being to minimise sampling error by recruiting the largest sample possible in the absence of a formal sampling frame.


Lay researcher contributions were recorded. The developed questionnaire included demographics, F.A.S.T., and items modified from National Sexual Attitudes & Lifestyles Survey. On the advice of lay researchers, items concerning children were minimised to avoid distress.


Of 5 women who expressed interest,1 current and 1 ex-user committed to the study- attending team meetings, and reviewing documents. Innovations included a distinction between study advertisement and study recruitment sites and display of participant information sheets in recruitment sites prior to commencement. An estimated 30% of eligible women participated.


To research vulnerable and transient populations data collection tools and conventional recruitment practices may need modification. Lay researchers can be pivotal in challenging conventions, and ensuring a study can safely engage its population.Engaging women who do not attend treatment services remains problematic.


Lambert N. Glasper A. Patel H. Chamberlain E.


Women’s Health Study, University of Brighton, 5th Floor Queensbury House, Havelock Road, Hastings TN34 1BP


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Ms Natalie Lambert