Learning to work together: developing academic and community research partnerships

Alexandra Adams, Nancy Miller-Korth, David Brown
WMJ: Official Publication of the State Medical Society of Wisconsin 2004, 103 (2): 15-9

BACKGROUND: Community-based participatory research (CBPR) has been promoted as an important collaborative methodology for addressing local health concerns. However, academic physicians and researchers usually are not trained to work with communities as partners.

METHODS: Key characteristics of effective community-academic partnerships are examined based on experiences with 2 CBPR projects in Wisconsin.

RESULTS: These 2 projects increasingly have involved the respective communities and researchers in a collaboration. The steps they have taken illustrate the qualities of successful CBPR partnerships: ongoing development of joint community and researcher analysis, communication, and mobilization to search for relevant solutions to important community health problems. To sustain this kind of partnership, it is critical for researchers using the CBPR approach to understand how their academic-scientific perspective differs as well as converges with the community members' practical-experiential perspective.

CONCLUSIONS: Health care researchers can effectively make use of partnerships with communities by following defined CBPR steps for developing mutually agreed upon research agendas, timelines, and goals. This, in turn, builds the capacity of communities to initiate and engage in future collaborative research projects concerning health issues.

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