Improving university-community research partnerships

Nov 09, 2009

Researchers from Tufts University and their community-based colleagues have identified several strategies to improve community-based participatory research (CBPR) partnerships. A study published in a supplement to the November 2009 issue of the American Journal of Public Health reported that training local leaders in research practices, especially human subjects protections, while engaging them in research improved university-community relationships, strengthened the ability of local organizations to seek additional funding through grants and conduct independent research, and diminished negative perceptions of researchers within immigrant populations.

"Our goal was to add to the existing research skills of our community partners and provide them with additional tools for independent research," says lead author Raymond Hyatt, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Hyatt and his colleagues worked closely with local leaders to design an occupational health assessment for immigrant workers in Somerville, Massachusetts. The research included community partners in survey preparation and implementation, plans for data analysis, and interpretation of results. The academic and community partners trained bilingual teen educators to conduct the surveys within the as a way to build trust and lessen cultural barriers.

Noting the unique risks to the immigrant population associated with participation in an occupational health study, including risks to undocumented individuals, risks of legal action for employees and employers who may not have proper safety procedures, and risk of alienation from peers; the researchers were careful to follow Tufts' Institutional Review Board (IRB) procedures to protect all participants.

"At times, the rigorous university procedures around protocol review and informed consent were frustrating and even confusing to community organizations who work closely and regularly within this population," says Hyatt.

Seeking to bridge the gap between researchers and community leaders, Hyatt and colleagues implemented a three-pronged intervention promoting education, training, and dialogue in the area of human subjects protection. The team worked with community leaders to share historical examples of experimentation on vulnerable populations and examples of how their own research had benefited from IRB policy. The academic researchers also had success in bringing a Tufts IRB administrator to meet face-to-face with community partners. The meeting promoted greater understanding of the IRB process and reinforced the shared goal of protecting participants.

"It is encouraging to see such positive results stem from our efforts to bring together university researchers, IRB administrators, and members of the community," says Hyatt. "The community benefits as local leaders gain the skills needed to be more successful in writing grants and conducting their own research, and the university benefits as the community grows more involved and accepting of the research process."

"We have already seen an improvement in the strength of our grant applications. Our experience with the IRB reinforces our commitment to the protection of our communities as they participate in research projects. We will use this experience to help secure more funding for local initiatives," says Alex Pirie, head of the Somerville Immigrant Service Providers Group/Health.

Hyatt and colleagues recommend involving community partners with the IRB as early as possible to promote greater understanding and facilitate cooperation in community-based research projects. They encourage researchers to share personal experiences involving the IRB to help bring the process to life, and they suggest constant communication between community partners, researchers, and the IRB.

Source: Tufts University

Explore further: Brazil to study legalization of medical marijuana

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A need for leadership in primary care

Sep 30, 2009

Community health centers have become the centerpiece of the nation's efforts to provide access to primary care for all and therefore experience a greater need for primary care providers, who already are in short supply. According ...

New HIV-reduction initiative takes to the fields

Nov 05, 2008

Education has found its way onto the soccer fields of North Carolina – in the form of a social experiment that may have all the right ingredients to change the direction of Latino health in the United States.

Place of birth contributes to asthma disparity

Dec 01, 2008

Tufts researchers and colleagues report that place of birth plays a role in the occurrence of asthma in a United States black population. The researchers found that within one inner-city population, blacks born in the United ...

Recommended for you

The hunt for botanicals

16 hours ago

Herbal medicine can be a double-edged sword and should be more rigorously investigated for both its beneficial and harmful effects, say researchers writing in a special supplement of Science.

Mozambique decriminalises abortion to stem maternal deaths

18 hours ago

Mozambique has passed a law permitting women to terminate unwanted pregnancies under specified conditions, a move hailed by activists in a country where clandestine abortions account for a large number of maternal deaths.

Infertility, surrogacy in India

18 hours ago

Infertility is a growing problem worldwide. A World Health Organization report estimates that 60-to-80 million couples worldwide currently suffer from infertility.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.