As my research project comes to a close, I’d like to attempt to make some broad conclusions and tie together the concepts of health promotion and community capacity building one last time. In previous posts I discussed the importance of using research as a link between capacity building and health promotion and examined the sociological concept of community. In this final post I would like to introduce a community based research method that unites concepts in these previous posts and in my opinion, is one of the most promising methods through which to conduct capacity building and health promotion in unison. This method is called community based participatory research, abbreviated as CBPR .
CBPR is defined as a “collaborative research approach that is designed to ensure and establish structures for participation by communities affected by the issue being studied, representatives of organizations, and researchers in all aspects of the research process to improve health and well-being through taking action, including social change” (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 3). By stressing “shared decision-making” and “mutual ownership” of research, planning, plans, actions and outcomes, community members are made an integral part of any health promotion endeavor (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 3). CBPR complements capacity building efforts because it encourages the sharing of ideas and responsibilities among residents via the use of consensus based decision-making—and from the beginning by promoting residents to define the research questions and recognize the potential value of systematic evidence. The research conducted in CBPR may consist of SNA or other forms of interviews/questionnaires, used to better understand community structure and concerns. Research conducted in a culturally sensitive manner may allow those conducting a health intervention to better target the most pressing health issues, track the success of the intervention and initiate open dialogue with locals in order to build a trusting, collaborative relationship. CBPR facilitates community engagement, which fosters collaboration and thus may strengthen social ties and build capacity. Simultaneously, researchers gather valuable information via CBPR and can then implement health initiatives tailored to the expressed needs and concerns of community members.
CBPR is unique in its perspective on health promotion and relevance to capacity building because of its emphasis on “co-learning” and the exchange of scientific knowledge and local wisdom (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 3). External entities that enter a community with a health promotion agenda possess resources and epidemiological knowledge that residents may not. Nevertheless, residents also possess knowledge that is essential to overcoming health obstacles, such as the location of clean drinking water, which diseases are currently most prevalent or awareness of cultural beliefs about a particular disease. Hence, health promotion should involve learning and new insights from both parties involved, for an equitable partnership must be established that facilitates a complete understanding of the issues at hand. The sharing of local wisdom and voicing health concerns may lead to the generation of proposed solutions to these concerns and thus develop a community’s collective problem solving abilities.
A primary objective of health promotion efforts is to encourage participation in and community ownership of any project executed. A health intervention can only make a lasting impact if community members continue the programs, arrangements, organizations, and health habits promoted in the intervention after the operators of the intervention leave the community. Community Based Participatory Research is a means of achieving this objective and evidently can serve as a bridge between community capacity building and health promotion organization, plans, implementation and outcomes.
United States. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Community-Based Participatory Research: Assessing the Evidence. no. 99.;
no. 04-E022-1; no. 04-E 022-1.; no. 99 Vol. Rockville, Md.: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2004.