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Exploring Theoretical Mechanisms of Community-Engaged Research

Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) is often used to understand community perspectives and address challenging issues including health inequities caused by structural racism. Much of the existing literature emphasizes relationships and synergy between academic researchers and community partners rather than structural components of CBPR. A study funded by NINR tested new theoretical mechanisms of the CBPR conceptual model through a survey including 165 community-engaged research projects. The findings provide additional support for the growing body of evidence for the CBPR conceptual model. Researchers and practitioners are increasingly using community-engaged research generally, and CBPR specifically, to work with communities to enhance health and health equity. This study additionally identified two critical new drivers as mechanisms for effective community and academic partnerships and positive outcomes: 1. commitment to collective empowerment and 2. structural governance. These concepts refer to academic and community partners’ commitment and how they share resources, fit with the community, conduct collective reflection, and make decisions jointly to benefit communities. The Future of Nursing Report specifically calls on the nursing science community to build an evidence base by “developing mechanisms for proposing, evaluating, and scaling evidence-based practice models that leverage collaboration among public health, social sectors, and health systems to advance health equity, including codesigning innovations with individuals and community representatives and responding to community health needs assessments.” This research not only supports that effort but is also focused specifically on health equity.

Oetzel JG, Boursaw B, Magarati M, et al. Exploring theoretical mechanisms of community-engaged research: a multilevel cross-sectional national study of structural and relational practices in community-academic partnerships. Int J Equity Health. 2022;21(1):59. Published 2022 May 2. doi:10.1186/s12939-022-01663-y. PMID: 35501798; PMCID: PMC 9063068.