Addressing health disparities requires a broad understanding of the underlying causes as well as approaches to increasing health equity. Such understanding grows through the development of relationships and partnerships around specific issues and approaches. Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) offers opportunities for equitable relationships between community members and academic researchers to identify areas of research and intervention development. During its 10-year history, the Center for Healthy Communities’ Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG) has developed a track record of nurturing partnerships with community organizations, undertaking CBPR projects, and promoting the CBPR practice throughout the university.
Membership in HDRG is open to faculty, staff and students throughout the university community. Its multidisciplinary character is broad-based with members from seven colleges within the university and incorporating the disciplines of Public Health, Medicine, Nursing, Allied Health, Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, Political Science, Education, Business, Engineering, and Library Science. The richness of the collaboration growing from such interaction across disciplines can be seen in the research projects that have been undertaken by group members over the years. Informed by the values of CBPR, these projects not only include academic researchers from across disciplines but also community organizations such as a local health center based in a low income community, churches, and a local advocacy group.
One example of community engagement is HDRGs continuing relationship with the Bay Area Women’s Coalition, Inc. (BAWC). The partnership first developed around BAWC’s need to gather neighborhood health information as part of substantiating the need for a clinic in the Trinity Gardens community of Mobile County. Through the partnership, HDRG members and BAWC leadership worked together to develop and field a health status and access to care survey among neighborhood residents. As a part of the partnership, HDRG members assisted BAWC leadership and volunteers with training on research methodology, working with human subjects, and basic computing, and data analysis. The collaboration continues as BAWC leadership are included in new project proposals and research design processes.
With the experiences and capacities developed through conducting CBPR based research projects, HDRG has established a reputation for expertise and leadership in this area. The group is now focused on a CBPR dissemination plan to establish CBPR as a model for research at the Local, State and Regional levels.
HDRG Meetings are held every third Friday throughout the academic year. Individuals interested in attending should contact Shannon Shelley-Tremblay.