Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Community-Based Participatory Research

I am writing this blog entry to simply introduce you to a form of research of which you may be less aware. Community-based participatory research involves a partnership including members of the community, including lay members and perhaps organizational representatives, that are developed to help reduce health disparity or enhance health promotion. In other words, members of the community participate actively in a research project or research process in order to give their insight into whatever knowledge we glean from the project. This form of research has challenges, since it is likely that the lay members may have less knowledge of research projects and methodology compared to the research leaders. However, what they have is knowledge of the terrain in which the research is conducted. For example, we might wish to study diabetes in a minority population. Involving members of that community can help us to understand all the factors and forces that lead to high rates of diabetes in that population and to ensure our methods will effectively help answer whatever question it is we have asked.

So, the idea is to encourage community participation in research. In order to do so, role expectations needs to be clearly defined and understood by all involved. There is a process by which community-based research is developed: a research question is first identified. Then, community assets, strengths and challenges are evaluated. Priorities are defined, and a research methodology is developed. Data is collected and analyzed, and then interpreted. Findings are disseminated. The results are then applied to the community. This last step is critical; it is where findings are translated into action. So, in that sense, community-based participatory research is also a form of translational research, albeit somewhat different from bench-to-bedside translational research. (1)
The advantages to this approach are many, but here are some key advantages> (1) this form of research enhances data usefulness; (2) It blends local knowledge and lived experience with the research methodology; (3) includes the individual in his or her local context; (4) Reduces distrust in the research process; and (5) it bridges cultural gaps.

There are 4 common study designs for this form of research: action-oriented community diagnosis, focus groups, photovoice and in-depth interviews. As you can see, these are primarily qualitative forms of research. To date, there is little community-based research in chiropractic, but I suspect that will change as we become more familiar with the strengths of this approach.

1.Rhodes SD. Community-based participatory research. In: Blessing JD, Forister JG. Introduction to research and medical literature for health professionals, 3rd edition. Burling5ton, MA; Jones and Bartlett, 2013:168

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