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Research Center

Community-Based Participatory Research

Including the Community as Valued Partners in Research

What is community-based participatory research (CBPR)? CBPR is an approach to studying health that includes community members from the very beginning. This means that the community and research team work together as partners in every step of the research process. For example, the community and research team work together to:

1.  develop the research question (e.g. how many people in our community have diabetes?)
2.  design the study (e.g. let's use a survey)
3.  pull the data together (e.g. 37% of our residents have diabetes), and 
4.  share the results (e.g. presentation, story in a newsletter). 

Typically, the research question is something that is important to and suggested by the community.

CBPR projects often include some type of action (e.g. plan to make sure residents get the supplies they need for their diabetes; policy to serve healthy foods in the schools) that will improve the health of the community. CBPR projects have been used to address many health problems (e.g. asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, etc.) and this approach has been shown to work in a lot of different types of communities.

Community-Academic Research Partnerships to Improve Health

As mentioned before, CBPR is a partnership approach to research. Partnerships may be between community members, organizations, and researchers. Because all partners participate in all steps of the research process, they also share in decision-making and ownership of the project.

Successful partnerships that have improved health sometimes involve partners with established relationships. But successful partnerships can also come from small, newer relationships (e.g. an academic faculty member may form a partnership with a local school or community health center). Other partnerships may include community service providers, faith-based organizations, policy makers, schools, community residents, public health agencies, and other community based organizations (CBOs).

How This Helps You

CBPR benefits the communities involved, either directly or because research findings can be put into place or policies can be changed based on the research results. CBPR combines research, education, and action. This means communities not only share in selecting and designing research projects, but they also gain skills during the research process and can use the results for future health care planning.

The key difference between CBPR and traditional research is its focus on action as part of the research process. In traditional research, there is often no follow-up.

Community Participatory Research Resources

Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH)

CCPH is a non-profit organization that promotes health (broadly defined) through partnerships between communities and colleges/universities. Founded in 1996, CCPH is a growing network of over 2,000 communities and campuses across North America that collaborate to promote health through service-learning, community-based participatory research, and partnerships.

Examining Community-Institutional Partnerships for Prevention Research Group

Developing and Sustaining Community-Based Participatory Research Partnerships: A Skill-Building Curriculum

As interest in community-based participatory research (CBPR) grows, there is a growing need and demand for resources that help partners build the knowledge and skills they need to create and sustain effective CBPR partnerships. This evidence-based curriculum is a tool that some partnerships are using or planning to use. This tool can be used by partnerships that are just forming as well as partnerships that are well-developed.

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This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

Last Reviewed: May 15, 2011

Demaree  Bruck, BA Demaree Bruck, BA
Project Manager, Community Engagement Core
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati

Lori E Crosby, PhysD Lori E Crosby, PhysD
Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati