The R4HC-MENA work stream “Mental Health and Conflict” carried out two specialised cohort courses focusing on qualitative data coding and analysis as well as skills to communicate research findings at academic conferences. The courses were designed based on the results of a Needs Assessment survey and the recently delivered intensive course “Research Methods for Mental Health in War and Conflict”. They were taught at the Institute of Community and Public Health (ICPH) at Birzeit University by Dr Hanna Kienzler from King’s College London with assistance from Ranim Amra and Shiraz Nasr from ICPH.
“Qualitative Data Coding and Analysis” was taught through a research-led approach which required participants to engage with empirical data sets by coding and analysing them with thematic analysis to achieve increased abstraction and analytical power. “Learning-by-doing” was considered important as acquiring analytical skills mainly through theoretical lectures is somewhat like learning how to swim without ever having been exposed to water. Participants praised the course for its interactive nature, the teamwork, the practical exercises, and the immediate feedback on their work. “Communicating Your Research at Conferences” was co-sponsored by the Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance (LPHA) Capacity Strengthening program. Participants learned about and practiced poster design and oral conference presentations, the elevator pitch and strategies to overcome public speaking anxiety. They considered the course helpful as many of them are in the process of preparing posters and presentations for the upcoming Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance Conference in Amman, Jordan.
While such and similar courses might be considered technical or dry, this was not how participants perceived them. Indeed, they are well aware that research methods and presentation skills are key aspects to be able to document and disseminate information about the Palestinian experience; to help local and international interventionists and policy makers to understand what it takes to live in contexts of war; and to bring attention to the pathways that connect war experiences with mental health and wellbeing. To hone their knowledge dissemination skills even further, the “Mental Health and Conflict” work stream will offer two intensive courses on quantitative and qualitative data presentation at Birzeit University in September 2019.