McLaren Health Care
Community Engaged Research

Community Engaged Research

What is Community Engaged Research (CEnR)?

Community engagement is about relationships, including the relationship between McLaren Health Care researchers and community representatives.  Community engaged research is a process that incorporates input from people who the research outcomes will impact and involves such people or groups as equal partners throughout the research process.

“If we want more evidence-based practice, we need more practice-based evidence.”

- Dr. Lawrence W. Green

Why Community-Engaged Research?

Through partnerships with schools, faith communities, community-based organizations, patients, healthcare providers, and other stakeholder groups, community-engaged researchers have the potential to:

  • Incorporate lived-experience insights into questions, hypotheses, or data interpretation.
  • Design research for easy translation to real-world health settings and situations.
  • Improve cultural- and language-appropriate communication and interventions.
  • Encourage participant recruitment, enrollment, and retention by community interactions.
  • Mitigate risk to the specific community by developing appropriate protections.
  • Build greater trust between academic researchers and communities, which may lead to additional collaborations.
  • Reach under-represented and under-served populations.

Working Together to Improve Health

Are you a community-minded researcher interested in improving the health of individuals and communities?  Before embarking on a community based engaged research project, ask yourself:

  • Do I have the time?
  • Have I already built relationships or want to build relationship within the community?
  • Do I have the qualifications and resources?
  • Am I willing to share control?

McLaren Health Care researchers interested in submitting a community-based research protocol must complete the CITI course Community-Engaged and Community-Based Participatory Research.  This course delivers introductory information to help researchers and community partners participate in research collaborations. This course supplements the foundational training provided in a basic Human Subjects Research (HSR) course (either Biomedical or Social-Behavioral-Educational). 

What are the steps of community-engaged research?

Community-engaged research is planned in partnership with the community that is the intended target of the research. It requires the development of partnerships between researchers and the community, cooperation and negotiation between parties, collaboration, and a commitment to addressing local health concerns. This can create additional steps not traditionally found in research projects, such as jointly creating a mission statement or a memorandum of understanding to establish terminology, timelines, and expectations. These planning steps typically occur before funding is secured for the research project so that a meaningful and trusting relationship is the platform on which to build  research activities. Community members may be skeptical of research conducted without compensation; therefore researchers and the community should  collaborate to define fair compensation for participation. The researchers also can involve the community members in the research activities and ensuring community member capacity building needs.

The table below illustrates the steps of the process of developing, implementing and analyzing the results of a research study, and compares traditional research and community-based participatory (CBPR) approaches to each of them. While recognizing that this degree of engagement is not ideal or even appropriate for all research projects, we are comparing this most engaged model to illustrate the collaborative potential at each step. Each collaborative project should assess the level of engagement that is appropriate.

Conducting Research: A Comparison of Traditional Research and Community-Based Participatory Approaches

Traditional Research Model

Research Component or Step

Community-Based Participatory Model

Issues identified based on epidemiologic data and funding priorities

Health concern(s) identified.

Full participation of community in identifying issues of greatest importance. Increased motivation to participate in research process.

Design based entirely on scientific rigor and feasibility; funding requested primarily for research expenses

Study designed and funding sought.

Community representatives involved with study design and proposal submission. Increased acceptability of study approach. Include funds for community.

Approaches to recruitment and retention based on scientific issues and “best guesses” regarding reaching community members and keeping them involved in the study.

Participants recruited and retention systems implemented.

Community representatives provide guidance regarding recruitment and retention strategies. Enhanced recruitment and retention are seen.

Measurement instruments adopted/adapted from other studies. Tested chiefly with psychometric analytic methods.

Measurement instruments designed and data collected.

Measurement instruments are developed with community input and tested in similar populations. Potentially sensitive issues handled better and increased reliability and validity of measures.

Researchers design intervention based on literature and theory.

Intervention designed and implemented.

Community members help guide intervention development. Greater cultural & social relevance to the population served, increasing likelihood of producing positive change.

Researchers report findings from statistical analysis and publish in peer-reviewed journals.

Data analyzed and interpreted, findings disseminated and translated.

Community members assist with interpretation, dissemination & translation of findings. Greater sensitivity to cultural & social norms, climate and potential group harm; enhances potential for translation of findings into practice.

Source: Viswanathan M, Ammerman A, Eng E, Gartlehner G, Lohr KN, Griffith D, Rhodes S, Samuel-Hodge C, Maty S, Lux, L, Webb L, Sutton SF, Swinson T, Jackman A, Whitener L. (2004). Community-Based Participatory Research: Assessing the Evidence. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 99 (Prepared by RTI–University of North Carolina Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-02-0016). AHRQ Publication 04-E022- 2. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.