Community-Based Participatory Research

It is increasingly recognized that “outside expert” research is ill-suited to investigating the complex health and social problems facing minority and underserved communities. The OHSU Center for Healthy Communities is committed to involving tribal communities as equal partners in research. Collaborative approaches to research that equitably involve community partners are superior because they incorporates the unique strengths that community members and organizations bring. Thus, community-based participatory research, or “CBPR”, is an orientation to research, and it changes the roles of the researcher, and those being researched.

It is important to recognize that CBPR is not a method or a set of methods, rather it is best thought of as an applied approach that recognizes that the community has the power of knowledge, the power to act and decide, and the power of essential resources, not only to conduct the research, but also to affect the change systems, programs, and policies to improve community health.

The principles* of CBPR include:

  • Recognize the community as a unit of identity
  • Build on the strengths and resources of the community
  • Facilitate partnership in all research phases
  • Promote co-learning and capacity building
  • Seek balance between research and action
  • Emphasize local relevance of research questions
  • Use an ecological perspective that includes multiple determinants of health
  • Disseminate findings and knowledge to all
  • Involve system development though a cyclical and iterative process
  • Commitment to a long-term relationship between the university and communities

*Israel et al. “Critical issues in developing and following CBPR principles” in Winkler and Wallerstein, eds. Community-Based Participatory Research in Health, Jossey Bass, 2000.

Community-Driven Research

We stress, that in working with tribal and Hawaiian communities, no research will ever be allowed without strict community scrutiny and without appropriate community-level approvals. This has been the case for all of our tribal and Hawaiian research projects. For NW Indian people, ‘community’ usually means a specific tribe. Every tribe has its own council comprised of elected tribal members, and each council considers protocols and will usually recommend modifications to protocols. For future protocols submitted through the Center, the tribes (and other communities) will be expected to have an even greater role in protocol development than has sometimes been the case in our past projects. We will engage community members at the grass-roots level and seek their input into research, as well as consider the suggestions of tribal council members and tribal health planners. In a similar way, our Center will work with Native Hawaiian community members, as well as those officials who represent the Hawaiian communities in health-related matters. We are honored to be able to work with Native peoples and value their trust in all health research-related programs that we undertake as partners.