New Journal Focused on Community-Based Research and Practice

In 2017, Collaborations: A journal of Community-Based Research and Practice launched to offer a peer-reviewed, open access resource focused on community-university collaborations. As an academic journal, Collaborations  will publish information related to:

  • The initiation of grassroots change efforts
  • The ingredients necessary for effective partnerships
  • The challenges of sustaining change
  • The process of technology transfers/research-to-practice/policy
  • The use of action research to document the effects of school-university collaborations
  • The development of community resources to improve university coursework
  • Civic engagement through university-community partnerships
  • Public policy and practice-relevant knowledge generated through university-community collaborations

Collaborations is divided into three sections: Scholarly Research, University-Community Collaborations, and Reflections on Experiential Learning. It is sponsored by the University of Miami and Rutgers University.

See the first issue of Collaborations.

Learn more about the journal.

Read the submission guidelines.


APHA Reflections: Lynette Parker

Lynette croppedFrom November 5 to 7, 2017,  members of the Center for Healthy Communities Research Core attended the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting and Expo in Atlanta, GA. Below, Ms. Lynette Parker, research assistant,  shares some thoughts on her first time attending the APHA meeting.

In general, what was your impression of the event?
APHA was huge. Choosing sessions to attend was difficult due to the diversity of subject matter and approaches. I ended up in sessions on community-based participatory research, violence, exercise, and big data. It was definitely a trove of information and learning.

Tell us about one session or activity that stood out to you?
A couple of things stand out to me. First, I attended a session titled “COmmunity voices: Community member perspectives on community-academic partnerships and CBPR.” Each of the presenters focused on the work of their partnerships and the findings from their research. The final presentation “Research Ethics in the Time of Crisis” really stood out to me as the presenter discussed the development of a Community Ethics Review Board in Flint, Michigan, following the water crisis.  In my opinion, the presentation — and work it is based on — offers an important example of how a marginalized community can have a voice in determining community direction and the research that is conducted within its boundaries.

A second experience was presenting the Research Core’s poster on its process for involving community members in the planning process for disseminating the findings of the Sentinel Surveillance Project. The conversations with others working on community-engaged projects were enlightening. I had a long conversation with a researcher from North Carolina who was doing work with Adverse Childhood Events in North Carolina. We talked about different ways of bringing community members more into projects so that they can help improve the research and interventions.

What are some lessons you learned at APHA?
I don’t know if it was a lesson learned or more of one reinforced, but the many sessions that I attended solidified the importance of community engagement in my mind. From a big data social media project to the Community Ethics Review Board to the improvement of an exercise intervention after user feedback, many of the sessions I attended pointed to the need to learning from those we are working with.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?
APHA was very informative if a little overwhelming. It was good to get feedback on the work we are doing.

APHA Reflections: Marcellus Hudson

Marcellus APHA_smallFrom November 5 to 7, 2017,  members of the Center for Healthy Communities Research Core attended the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting and Expo in Atlanta, GA. Below, Mr. Marcellus Hudson, research technician III,  shares some thoughts on his first time attending the APHA meeting.

In general, what was your impression of the event?
I  was impressed by the number of people in attendance. I felt welcomed in the first session I attended. I, also, felt like everything was organized.

Tell us about one session or activity that stood out to you?
The session that stood out to me was the Black Caucus of Health Workers. This session stood out because I wasn’t aware of an organization that focuses on recognizing the health care needs of Blacks in America. They explained their organization’s history and why it was formed. I was told that it was one of APHA’s oldest organizations.

What are some lessons you learned at APHA?
I learned the difference between the Public Health field and Medical field. I understand that the Public Health field is focused more on populations while the Medical field is focused more on individuals. I  learned about effectively using social media to engage your audience by utilizing tools like HootSuite and Buffer.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?
It was an amazing experience and I look forward to next year’s!


APHA Reflections: Naima Wells

Naima_smallFrom November 5 to 7, 2017,  members of the Center for Healthy Communities Research Core attended the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting and Expo in Atlanta, GA. Below, Mrs. Naima Wells, research coordinator,  shares some thoughts on her first time attending the APHA meeting.

In general, what was your impression of the event?
Although, APHA was a large event it felt inclusive and interactive through the use of the APHA app and social media. Overall, it was well organized and well managed.

Tell us about one session or activity that stood out to you?
One session that stood out was “Qualitative Research & The Arts: Translating Results Into Action”. Through a CBPR partnership with youth in the community and the session presenter, an art-based youth driven conceptual model was used to present qualitative data that expressed the voice and lived experiences of the community. It also helped to contextualize the data. The youth would create drawings, poems, rap songs, or other creative mediums to share findings with the community and government officials. One interesting component was the media campaign to present positive imagery of young black males by taking “mugshots” of the young men in a cap and gown holding a sign that displayed their career goals.

What are some lessons you learned at APHA?
One lesson I learned is how public administration and public policy factor into the social determinants of health and health equity.  Typically, public administration focuses on effectively and efficiently achieving public policy goals through administrative systems, insomuch there are some areas that interrelate to public health concerns.  I also learned that as a public administrator, I could address some of the challenges and opportunities in population health and health equity through a policy framework.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?
The “Industry Expert Theater” was very informative and effective considering each presentation was very short lasting approximately 15 minutes each. I also, appreciate that there are opportunities for free training offered by ChangeLab Solutions on public health law and policy.

New study: nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

The following excerpt comes from the article published October 17, 2017, in EurekaAlert!.

Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered by emergency departments has grown. The paper highlights the major role played by emergency care in health care in the U.S.

“I was stunned by the results. This really helps us better understand health care in this country. This research underscores the fact that emergency departments are critical to our nation’s healthcare delivery system.” said David Marcozzi, an associate professor in the UMSOM Department of Emergency Medicine, and co-director of the UMSOM Program in Health Disparities and Population Health. “Patients seek care in emergency departments for many reasons. The data might suggest that emergency care provides the type of care that individuals actually want or need, 24 hours a day.”

Although he now focuses on population health, Dr. Marcozzi is an emergency room doctor himself, and works one or two days a week in the University of Maryland Medical Center emergency department, treating patients.

This is the first study to quantify the contribution of emergency department care to overall U.S. health care. The paper appears in the latest issue of International Journal for Health Services.

For this study, Dr. Marcozzi and his colleagues examined publicly available data from several national healthcare databases, which covered all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They studied the period between 1996 and 2010.

For 2010, the most recent year studied, the study found that there were nearly 130 million emergency department visits, compared with almost 101 million outpatient visits and nearly 39 million inpatient visits. Inpatient visits typically involve a hospital stay, but are planned ahead, as opposed to emergency department visits, which are generally at least somewhat unexpected.

Over the 14-year period of the study, more than 3.5 billion health care contacts – emergency department visits, outpatient visits, and hospital admissions took place. Over that time, emergency care visits increased by nearly 44 percent. Outpatient visits accounted for nearly 38 percent of contacts. Inpatient care accounted for almost 15 percent of visits.

Certain groups were significantly more likely to use the emergency department as their method of healthcare. African-American patients were significantly more likely to have emergency department visits than patients in other racial groups; patients in the “other” insurance category, which includes those without any type of insurance, were significantly more likely to have emergency department visits than any other group. And patients living in the South were significantly more likely to have emergency department visits than patients living in other areas of the country.

African-American patients used emergency departments at a higher rate than other groups. In 2010, this group used the emergency department almost 54 percent of the time. The rate was even higher for urban African-American patients, who used emergency care 59 percent of the time that year. Emergency department use rates in south and west were 54 percent and 56 percent, respectively. In the northeast, use was much lower, 39 percent of all visits.


Read the full article.


CHC Represented at APHA 2017

Four members of the Center for Healthy Communities Research Core attended the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting and Expo in Atlanta, GA during early November.  Along with learning from the diverse sessions and experiences offered by the event, the team presented two posters related to the Sentinel Surveillance to Monitor Progress Towards Health Equity Project (Sentinel Surveillance).

Arreita Poster Cropped smallDuring the session “Recent Studies on Health Disparities in Public Health Epidemiology,” Dr. Martha Arrieta presented a poster that discussed a comparison between data provided by the Sentinel Surveillance methodology — primary data — with small area estimates (SAEs) based on the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System (BFRSS) and Census data. Titled “Can we sharpen the focus? Small Area and Sentinel Surveillance Estimates for a Health Disparate Population, “ the poster provided a comparison of both types of data from the focus area for the Sentinel Surveillance project with a review of the estimates for the prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, stroke, cancer, and kidney disease as well as the proportion of persons lacking health insurance. The analysis showed that while the SAEs pinpoint geographic areas of health inequity, the SS sample provides age-specific estimates and can further delineate person-level characteristics useful to focus and tailor health equity interventions.

Lynette poster cropped smallIn the session “Diversity and Dynamics in CBPR Partnerships and Coalitions,”  Lynette Parker presented an overview of the team’s dissemination planning process developed to ensure that Sentinel Surveillance findings are communicated to the community in a useful manner. Titled “Returning what was given: Communicating research findings in the community,” the poster provided a description of the engagement process used to include three distinct community voices into the dissemination planning process: 1) the Community Advisory Board consisting of community leaders who had advised on the project from its inception; 2) Research Apprentices who had been recruited and trained to collect data for the Sentinel Surveillance project as well as conducting other important tasks on the project; and 3) Community Health Advocates who had been involved in various projects through the Center for Healthy Communities Community Outreach Core. The presentation highlighted the importance of listening to diverse community voices in developing an effective dissemination plan.

The three days spent at the APHA Annual Meeting were fruitful and informative. Staff reflections on the event will be posted in the coming weeks.






4th Annual CEI Advances Regional Health Equity Dialogue

The following excerpt is from the article posted by the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

On Friday, Oct. 6, the 2017 Community Engagement Institute (CEI) drew a large crowd, both live and virtual, interested in sharing best practices at the nexus of health, environmental renewal, and civil inclusion and empowerment. From the opening keynote speaker to the final networking session, the call for health equity resounded, creating a strong sense of connection and shared purpose among the diverse attendees.

The theme of the CEI 2017 was “Community Health from Engagement and Environmental Renewal (CHEER) for Civil Inclusion and Empowerment.” More than 125 attended in person at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center (BJCC), with dozens more participating at the sister event hosted by CCTS Partner University of South Alabama (USA), which conducted its own breakout sessions in between the livestreamed keynotes from the BJCC.

Opening keynote speaker Dr. Errol Crook, Abraham A. Mitchell Chair, Professor and Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, University of South Alabama College of Medicine, set the tone with his inspirational personal journey from a basic scientist to a “multi-focused health disparities physician investigator.” He shared how he realized during his medical training that a patient’s background includes important information that wasn’t taken into account but had tremendous bearing on health outcomes “and [social determinants of health (SDHs)] is now a burgeoning field of science.”

Crook highlighted the key ingredients that constitute a healthy community: walkable, easily navigable; safe; good jobs; good educational opportunities; healthy and trusting relationships with neighbors; access to all the necessities of life nearby; low stress; no exposure to environmental toxins; able to make decisions regarding its destiny. The latter, he said, was often overlooked but critical to health. The “opportunity to participate in society” reflects a “difference between being poor and being impoverished,” with impoverishment rooted in a lack of education and a voice as well as income.

The challenge and opportunity for academic-community partnerships are “how to give greater voice to those communities whose voices are most ignored.” Crook stressed the most important ingredient for the success of such a partnership is “respect.” He described the current health care disagreement as a debate between those who see health care as a right versus those who see it as a privilege. He challenged the audience to move past this to instead imagine a nation that has achieved health equity. “Are all Americans empowered to make the decisions that will ensure good health over their lifetime?”

Ms. Diane Bell McCoy, the second keynote speaker, also shared a personal journey of finding her voice and learning to use it to dismantle systemic racism by working within such systems. Her story was at times painfully raw, underscoring the link between racism and its negative mental health impacts, such as depression and suicidal ideation. She described the difficulty she faced in getting culturally relevant mental health services as a young college student, struggling to find an African American therapist who “helped me find my gift and apply it to the world around me.”

Bell McCoy is now the President and CEO of Associated Black Charities, a public foundation credited for its work as a catalyst for statewide advocacy, policy design, and innovative transactional strategies as they relate to the impact of structural racism in depressing the economic and health outcomes for the African American community. She explained her approach is grounded in “the Ps”: the intersectionality of Policies that support the racial distribution of both health and wealth; the Process of community engagement; changing Programs not just People (“lives can change, but if systems do not, racial inequities remain”); and keeping it Personal. “This work takes courage…there can be a shared vision, but you have to get past language barriers and establish trust, build relationships, before you can discuss the issue of privilege,” she said.

Read the full article.

HDRG Recap: Experiences with Community-Based Participatory Research

On October 20, 2017, the Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG) held its first meeting of the 2017-2018 academic year. Two speakers provided an overview of experiences related to health disparities and community-based participatory research.

Ms. Shelley-Tremblay, formerly the project manager for the Center for Healthy Communities and current Director of the Office of Community Engagement at the University of South Alabama, reported on her experience at the 2017 Summer Intensive hosted by the Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH). Titled “Structural Inequality: An On The Ground View”, the intensive provided a two-day experiential learning opportunity to the approximately 35 attendees who ranged in age from 16 to 86 and came from various walks of life. Each aspect of the Summer Intensive — 21C Museum Hotel, the University setting, the tour of Historic Stagville, and lecturers — was chosen to facilitate learning about the roots of structural inequality and how tools of Community-Based Participatory Research/Approach (CBPR) and Community Action Strategies can be used to address structural inequality.

In the session on the  “Groundwater” approach, presented by the Racial Equity Institute, LLC,  the group explored racism and inequity as touching and affecting all aspects of life. The facilitators used stories and data to demonstrate how racism is fundamentally structural in nature. With this framework for understanding and analyzing inequality, the final sessions explored how CBPR could be used in response. Shannon finished her presentation with questions for the HDRG group to consider:

  • How can we build on the work of HDRG to “help to ensure that the reality of community engagement and partnership matches the rhetoric?”
  • What role can we play in shifting the conversation about health in our community to an opportunities lens and away from the current focus on problems?
  • Is there value in bringing a similar experience to this region?
  • How can we leverage the assets in our region?
  • What aspects of our ongoing health disparities work can be expanded to make this focus on addressing the link between structural and inequality and health intentional?

In the second presentation of the day, Dr. Martha Arrieta, Director of the Research Core at the Center for Healthy Communities, informed the group of the recent publication of an article about the evolution of the HDRG in the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement. She explained that HDRG was starting its 13th year and had built a strong platform for health disparities research over its history. In exploring the history and accomplishments of the HDRG, Dr. Arrieta started by reviewing a 2008 publication which outlined the establishment of the group. She then provided an overview of the recent article on the strategies for consolidation. In doing so, she covered:

  • Promotion of Group Identity and Permanence: an overview of activities that were used to form the HDRG and develop connection and focus among the members.
  • Fostering Health Disparities Research Capacity: a review of research projects undertaken by the group over its history.
  • Engagement in Participatory Research: explanation of the partnership with the Bay Area Women’s Coalition and a diabetes research project with the Hands of Hope Clinic in Trinity Gardens.
  • Dissemination of CBPR Principles: an overview of the activities undertaken to disseminate CBPR and community engagement through the university campus.

Dr. Arrieta next discussed the challenges faced by the HDRG over the years and the keys to successfully overcoming those. She described the activities — such as faculty forums, meetings with university leadership, joint research projects, and community partnerships  — as contributing to establishing health disparities/health equity as a concern within the University and HDRG as a leader for community engagement on the campus. Dr. Arrieta ended her presentation by mentioning the plans for the community-engaged dissemination of the findings from the Sentinel Surveillance Project and the potential of work to promote bi-directional links between basic science labs on campus and the community -activities that become building blocks for continued work in community-engaged approaches to researching and addressing health disparities.


Presentation from Ms. Shannon Shelley-Tremblay.
Presentation from Dr. Arrieta.

Connecting Regionally: The UAB Community Engagement Institute Livestream



On Friday, October 6, 2017, as hundreds of community members and researchers gathered in Birmingham, Alabama, for the 4th Annual Community Engagement Institute (CEI), a smaller group gathered at the University of South Alabama (USA) Faculty Club to participate through a combination of livestreaming and in-person, interactive sessions. Dubbed the “USA CEI livestream”, this unique event came about through the Regional Community Engagement initiative of the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences of which USA is a partner. The goals of the event were 1) to test a method for expanding the ability of regional partner institutions to participate in a large event from a distance, 2) to bring the CEI experience to USA’s research and community partners. The 22 individuals attending the event in Mobile watched a livestream of keynote speakers Dr. Errol Crook and Ms. Diane Bell McKoy. Through the Twitter hashtag #CEI2017, the Mobile attendees were able to ask questions of the speakers and connect with the events in Birmingham.

ArrietaDuring the breakout sessions, the Mobile site offered two presentations on community-engaged research. The first presenter, Dr. Martha Arrieta, provided an overview of the research apprentice concept as a new model of peer research. In doing so, she described the contributions of research apprentices to the Sentinel Surveillance Project, the benefits of the experience for apprentices, and the potential for future development. 

The second breakout presentation, by Naima Wells and Lynette Parker, told the story of engaging community members in planning for dissemination of the Sentinel Surveillance Project findings in the community. After an introduction to the project, they discussed the process of developing a framework for engagement, identifying key advisors for the planning purpose, and the methodology for ensuring community voices were heard and incorporated into the work.

Hanks_editedThe two presentations were followed by a discussion led by Dr. Roma Hanks. The dialogue focus was driven by the interest of attendees who sought first to learn more about the research apprenticeship and ways to make it become more formalized.  As the discussion evolved the participants sought to identify meaningful ways to expand community-engaged research to address community problems and identify opportunities to expand scholarly efforts. The discussion was followed by a networking lunch.

By providing the livestream with local activities and networking opportunities, the UAB CCTS in conjunction with the USA Center for Healthy Communities and USA Office of Research Development and Learning worked together to develop the regional engagement strategies. The goal is to continue developing strategies to further connect communities and researchers in the state and region.






New Publication: Consolidating the Academic End of a Community-Based Participatory Research Venture to Address Health Disparities

A recent article published in the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement explores the development of the Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG) at the University of South Alabama.  Written by a team led by Dr. Martha Arrieta, the article discusses

  • the formation process of the HDRG
  • Activities leading to the promotion of group identity and permanence
  • Activities to Foster Health Disparities Research Capacity
  • Activities Leading to Engagement in Participatory Research
  • Activities Leading to the Dissemination of CBPR Principles and Practice
  • Keys to Success in the Consolidation of HDRG
  • Challenges Encountered and Responses Devised

Read the full article.