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Ethn Dis. 2010 Winter;20(1 Suppl 2):S2-21-9.

Ethnographic evaluation of a research partnership between two African American communities and a university.

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Public health anthropologists at a large urban university and a community advisory board (CAB) representing two African American communities partnered to find clues to the high incidence of African American low birth weight, preterm delivery and infant mortality. Collaborating as equal partners, the Healthy African American Families (HAAF) project ethnographically explored what it means to be African American, pregnant and living in the urban inner city. A team of evaluators used ethnographic methods to study the partnership over a continuous four-year period. The objectives of the evaluation were to study the: a) collaborative partnership; b) levels of community involvement/participation; and c) openness and interactiveness within the partnership. Focusing primarily on the African American communities' contributions to the research partnership, this article also identifies what worked, what didn't work, and what sometimes worked for the partnership as a whole, including the funder's role. The evaluation of university researchers as they conduct their work in partnership with and within communities of color is a new way of learning about partnered research. Findings from this evaluation inform the social science community about: what happened, how it happened, the quality of interaction of professional researchers as they worked cross-culturally, the broader context that impacted the research, the confidence one can have in the quality of the data, and the cultural relevance and contextual appropriateness of the research interpretations.

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