The Role of Community-Based Participatory Research to Inform Local Health Policy

Community-based participatory research (CBPR)—which pairs academic researchers with community partners in the research process—offers researchers the opportunity to identify and address health policy questions at the local level. It can reduce health disparities by identifying the unique needs of minority communities in ways impossible at the national level.

Two Temple University researchers offer four mechanisms for CBPR to inform local health policy. They cite examples of a CBPR project with Puentes de Salud (Bridges of Health), a community health center in Philadelphia for new Latino immigrants.

Mechanism 1—CBPR directly involves individuals and communities to which it can provide direct benefits. Puentes de Salud improved cervical screening rates using community health workers.

Mechanism 2—CBPR helps health services researchers access and generate local data that inform local problems. Researchers found Latina Pap smear rates significantly lower locally (47%) than nationally (75%).

Mechanism 3—CBPR promotes an informed interpretation of study findings, which is a critical link to effective local policy-making. Contextual information from community partners helps researchers interpret findings.

Mechanism 4—CBPR builds a natural infrastructure for impacting local health policy. Relationships forged during a CBPR project can be helpful for disseminating findings and mobilizing the community to action.