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Prog Community Health Partnersh. 2007 Fall;1(3):231-40. doi: 10.1353/cpr.2007.0021.

"You've got to understand community": community perceptions on "breaking the disconnect" between researchers and communities.

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  • 1The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA.



Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is a growing approach to research yet its implementation does not come without challenges. Incorporating CBPR may be especially difficult for large academic medical institutions where research is conducted by different stakeholders operating under different paradigms. The Environmental Justice Partnership (EJP) is a community-academic partnership that sought to understand and address these challenges.


To know how to effectively foster collaboration between a large academic medical center and its surrounding urban community, the EJP sought to understand community stakeholders' views on research, the research process, and how to improve researcher-community collaborations.


This study used a qualitative approach to gather information from residents and representatives from community-based organizations (CBOs) and city agencies. The data are from 17 semistructured interviews and 8 focus groups (n = 80) conducted from October 2003 to May 2004.


Respondents emphasized the importance of disseminating research findings, working closely with the community before research starts and throughout the study, and listening to community members' priorities and needs. Those with personal research experience had more positive attitudes about research than respondents who had not been in research.


Academic institutions need to make greater effort to involve communities regularly in their community-based research to identify community priorities and concerns. Institutions may want to develop strategies for their affiliated researchers to facilitate partnership building. Especially for large academic institutions in urban settings, such efforts may help to bridge distance between researchers and community to promote the shared goal of improved public health.

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