Addressing the challenges of Latino health research: participatory approaches in an emergent urban community

Iveris Luz Martinez, Olivia Carter-Pokras, Pamela Bohrer Brown
Journal of the National Medical Association 2009, 101 (9): 908-14

BACKGROUND: Challenges to recruitment of Latinos in health research may include language, cultural and communication barriers, trust issues, heterogeneity of legal status, and a high percent of uninsured when compared to the US population. This paper highlights the community-based participatory research (CBPR) process and expands on the applicability of these principles to Latino communities.

METHODS: We review steps taken and describe lessons learned in using a participatory approach to broadly assess and address the health of urban-dwelling Latinos in Baltimore, Maryland, through the adaptation of CBPR principles.

FINDINGS: We identified health priorities, access barriers, and community resources (eg, Latin American trained nurses who were not currently working in the health field, immigrant networks) using a participatory approach. Suggestions for improving trust, research participation, and access to care ranged from not collecting data on legal status, and regular attendance and presentations of ongoing research at community provider meetings, to referral to free or low-cost health care services at screening events.

CONCLUSION: Despite growing interest in CBPR, limited guidance exists on how to apply CBPR principles to conduct health research among Latinos. Incorporating a participatory process can help address Latino community concerns, enrich quality and relevance of research, and empower community members.

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