Minnesota community organizations start health research projects, with help from University of Minnesota


Representatives from 11 community groups started work on their community-based health research projects in a meeting room at the University of Minnesota October 25. “Instead of research done to communities,” said Andrea Leinberger-Jabari, of the Community-engaged Research Programs at the University of Minnesota, “it’s research done with communities.”

About an hour into the afternoon’s session, Dr. Kola Okuyemi (U of M Medical School) posed a question: Was that study of ruptured aneurysms a case control? One man consulted his computer, while a woman in the next row leafed through her notes. In the back row, a participant folded her arms and appeared to be thinking intently about the description projected on the screen at the front of the room. No, the group agreed — there was no control. Someone suggested that the study was cross-sectional. No, another said, it was a qualitative historical study. Or was it cohort-retrospective? What were the weaknesses of this research design?

The discussion of theory will translate into practice for the two dozen representatives of community organizations such as the Somali, Latino, and Hmong Partnership for Health and Wellness (SoLaHmo), the Becker County Human Services – County Crisis Stabilization Unit and the African Career, Education and Resource Inc. (ACER). They were among the successful applicants for the community based research development project, which is part of the U of M Clinical and Translational Science Institute. The goal of the project, according to the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, is “working to increase community involvement in the research process and the efficiency and speed at which the results of health related research translates into new treatments, interventions and improved health outcomes.”

Dr. Kola Okuyemi (UMN Medical School) and Dr. Cathy Jordan (UMN Extension.) Okuyemi and Jordan presented the introduction to research in general, and to community based research in particular.

Community-engaged research, explained Okuyemi, is “a way of doing research in which there’s more engagement with the community with whom the research is happening.” Empowerment and capacity-building are integral parts of the process. “The community ends up with something, regardless of the findings of the project,” he said. “The community learns how to do some things better — hopefully, the university person learns some things, too.”

While it’s a different approach to research, community-engaged research still uses traditional methodologies of qualitative and quantitative research. During the afternoon session, the first of six weekly workshops, the U of M researchers led community participants through discussion of the differences between cohorts, case studies, focus groups and more.

We hope to follow the work that some of the community groups will do as a result of this project. The groups are:

  • Becker County Human Services – County Crisis Stabilization Unit
  • African Career, Education and Resource Inc. (ACER)
  • Canvas Health
  • Capernaum Pediatric Therapy, Inc.
  • Children’s Defense Fund
  • Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servico (CLUES)
  • Family Tree Clinic
  • Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota
  • MN Department of Education, Safety, Health and Nutrition Division
  • Minnesota AIDS Project
  • Somali, Latino, and Hmong Partnership for Health and Wellness (SoLaHmo) out of WestSide Community Health Services

Look for more reports during the weeks ahead.