To improve health and reduce disparities through health services research, investigators are increasingly turning to techniques that actively involve individuals and institutions who would be affected by the research. In one such approach, community-based participatory research (CBPR), community members participate in every aspect of designing and implementing research with the expectation that this process will enhance the translation of research into practice in communities. Because few physician researchers have expertise in such community-based approaches to research, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation leadership expanded the mission of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program (RWJCSP), which historically focused on health services and clinical research, to include training and mentored experiences in community-based health research.
The three years of experience (2005-2008) implementing the new community research curricula at the four RWJCSP sites, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Yale University in New Haven, form the basis for this paper. The authors describe how, with common goals and objectives, each site has taken different approaches to teaching CBPR based on the unique nature of existing community and academic environments. The authors use illustrative quotes to exemplify three key challenges that training programs face when integrating community-partnered approaches into traditional research training: relationship building; balancing goals of education/scholarship/relationships/product; and sustainability. Finally, the authors offer insights and implications for those who may wish to integrate CBPR training into their research training curricula.
Keywords: Community-based research, fellowship training, health services research, underserved populations