Partnering with the community early on and throughout the translational research process is necessary to identify and address community health needs and priorities more effectively. The CTSI community engagement program—under the leadership of Tracy Battaglia MD, MPH, and Community Engagement Coordinators Ann Han, MS; Judi Henderson, MM; and Eugenia Smith—defines its community geographically as the areas of Boston and surrounding communities served by the Boston HealthNet network of community health centers (CHCs). These areas encompass East Boston, South Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, South End, Mattapan, Roslindale, East Boston, and the city of Quincy.
The CTSI community engagement program is built on our belief that rigorous clinical translational research is necessary to achieve health equity in our community, a historically under-represented, racially and ethnically diverse, urban population. We use a broad definition of stakeholders guided by the “7Ps” of Thomas Concannon, which includes patients, providers, policy-makers, producers, payers, purchasers, and principal investigators. We partner with patients/advocates, providers and researchers. Some of our partnerships include:
- Boston Breast Cancer Disparities Coalition: a hub-to-hub collaboration of providers from Boston-area researchers from Harvard Medical School and Tufts University.
- Connecting Community to Research: a hub-to-hub collaboration of community stakeholders such as leaders and physicians from area community health care centers.
- The Boston HealthNet: an integrated care delivery network that includes 14 community health centers (13 are Federally Qualified Health Centers), Boston Medical Center, and Boston University School of Medicine. The Boston HealthNet Research Subcommittee meets monthly to review research proposals that involve Boston HealthNet community health centers and facilitate community input across the translational spectrum. Serving as a consultant to the investigator and health center, the subcommittee ensures awareness of CTSI research resources and provides feedback to ensure research is equally supportive of community goals. Nearly 200 research projects have been approved through this process.
- Our Community Our Health: this HealthStreet community engagement program hosted by the University of Florida is a quarterly webinar series where health researchers discuss their research and findings with the community via an interactive nationally broadcast webinar highlighting research addressing community health concerns such as diabetes, adolescent marijuana use, breast and colon cancer.
- The Patient Advisory Group: composed of BMC patients who provide feedback on community outreach efforts to raise awareness about research and benefits to the community. The group meets every other month to receive training in research methods and provide consultation to researchers, taking an active role in study design, implementation, and dissemination of research findings.
- Black Women’s Health Study: a-more-than-20-year-running study by BU’s Sloane Epidemiology Center. Black women have higher rates of many illnesses, such as hypertension, breast cancer, diabetes, stroke, and lupus. Findings from the study, which are regularly updated, are publically available.
- The Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights: a service providing comprehensive medical, mental health, obstetric/gynecological care coordinated with social support and legal referrals to approximately 375 individuals from over 40 countries. Interpreter services are available for more than 30 languages to aid in the healing journey of each patient and their families.
- The Boston University Area Health Education Center: aims to foster an interest in primary care careers for medical students and residents and to support the practice and teaching of primary care medicine in the community.
- Partnership in Health and Housing: a collaboration among BU School of Public Health, the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), the Boston Public Health Commission, and the Public Housing Community Committee to promote the health and well-being of BHA residents through community collaboration, with the long-term goal of decreasing documented health disparities between public housing residents and other residents in Boston.
- The Center for Research to Evaluate & Eliminate Dental Disparities: funded by the NIH, the Center’s mission is to improve oral, dental and craniofacial health through research, research training, and the dissemination of health information, with a focus on the elimination of oral health disparities.