Our expert answers 3 Questions
As the Director of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center, I am focused on building community-academic research partnerships aimed at better understanding and addressing health inequities in Detroit. We use a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach that emphasizes the role of community partners in conducting collaborative research that benefits the communities involved. In conjunction with my academic and community colleagues, my current work through the Healthy Environments Partnership (HEP) and the Community Action Against Asthma (CAAN) partnerships is focused on examining and addressing physical and social environmental factors that can affect health. These partnerships consider the effects of factors such as air pollution and neighborhood stressors on outcomes such as cardiovascular disease (HEP) and childhood asthma (CAAN). This research focuses not only on producing new knowledge, but also on translating and disseminating the research findings in ways that are relevant for grassroots advocacy and policy-making in the community. These CBPR projects address health inequities from a range of perspectives, from walking groups for individuals and groups, to household interventions involving community health workers, to urban planning and neighborhood transformation.
I have long been engaged in addressing inequities and social justice through community partnerships and collaboration. CBPR is not a new approach to research, but it is becoming more widespread as researchers are conentrating more on community involvement and ensuring that research outcomes are relevant and useful. This research is focused on bringing community members to the table to have an equal stake in the design, implementation, and translation of health research, with the ultimate goal of improving health status and quality of life in the communities involved.
Community-based participatory research involves equitable partnerships for research, shared decision-making and priority-setting, and community training and advocacy. This allows both etiologic research and intervention research to be conducted, while also resulting in practical, evidence-based interventions and policy changes in the community. Affiliated partnerships of the Detroit URC have used this approach to better understand health care coverage, to help develop public health action plans, to help bridge the gap between families and their health care providers, and to facilitate continuing education for health care providers to further enhance their capacity to address the needs of their clients.