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Expanding Community-Linked Infrastructure to Support Disparities Research

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Multiple factors have been identified as negatively affecting minority participation in research, including lack of trust, power differences, limited access to healthcare and research opportunities, participant burden, and lack of perceived relevance. This body of research also identifies a critical need for community engagement in efforts to increase minority participation in research. Community engagement is facilitated by intentional structural support such as community advisory boards, financial and other resources, involvement of minority researchers, community health workers, and community-based participatory approaches. This project seeks to establish a community-based research infrastructure that responds to these needs by adapting a successful model of community engagement-the Community Connector Program (CCP). This model is employed by the TriCounty Rural Health Network, a partner of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health. The proposed project will adapt this approach to encompass a broader vision/goal-establishing a community-linked infrastructure that will increase minority participation and community engagement in research and improve healthcare quality to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. Once established, the infrastructure will be sustainable through the Community Engagement Key Function of the NIH-funded UAMS Center for Clinical and Translational Research, which brings together stakeholders in lay, health practice, and academic communities. These communities will build the proposed infrastructure through six specific aims: 1) adapt the existing CCP approach to facilitate health science research;2) adapt the existing CCP electronic database so Community Health Connectors can use it to identify lay community members, their health-related needs, and their service and research interests;3) expand the existing CCP resource directory to include services and research opportunities that address community priorities;4) establish contact with community residents and assist in connecting them to services and research opportunities relevant to their identified priorities;5) provide practitioners and researchers with lay input regarding ways to improve healthcare quality and address community-identified barriers to service utilization, health improvement, and research participation in partnership with the Pine Bluff Area Health Education Center;and 6) evaluate the community-linked research infrastructure with a focus on chronic disease prevention and management. Accomplishing these aims will 1) further NIH's mission by increasing community engagement in both medical and behavioral research, leading to practice applications that reduce disparities in health and healthcare and 2) establish a sustainable infrastructure that enables bidirectional flow of information among key stakeholder communities.

PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The proposed project will build on community assets to make it easier for minority communities to take part in research and to influence the health-related research agenda. Such participation is critical in assuring that public health efforts are grounded in good science that is relevant and feasible to translate into practice. This goal will be reached by using a successful model, in which trusted lay people connect community members to needed services, to increase community access to other service and research opportunities.

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