by Carly Foubert, CFICE Communications RA

Traditional research follows a top-down approach with specific roles in the process: there is a researcher and there is a subject of study.  Although the study may follow an empiricist or an interpretivist approach, the researcher has rule over the direction of the study, method selected (mainly quantitative or qualitative), and the results. In many cases the results of the research may not be available or of any use to the subjects of the study, thus creating a hierarchy in the realm of research.

leading, Training, Partnering, Convening, Disseminating

The 5 Pillars of CCPH

Enter community based participatory research! Community based participatory research, or CBPR, offers a refreshing alternative to traditional research methods. It places the research into the hands of the community with an emphasis on collaboration and participation with community-campus partnerships. It is research designed by, and for, the community.

The aim of CBPR is simple: to advance understanding by answering a research question from which the results can then be applied by the community in order to impact and make a difference for those living in the community.

Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH) is a non-profit membership organization that promotes health equality and social justice by encouraging CBPR. CCPH provides training and technical assistance, conducts research, builds coalitions and advocates for supportive policies through the memberships it offers.

Speaker giving presentation

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Clinical Scholars program

CCPH uses CBPR to identify and research health, as defined by physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being, in order to achieve policy change that traditional research methodologies might not otherwise achieve as effectively. Their mission statement is to “build capacity of communities and academic institutions to engage each other in partnerships that balance power, share resources, and work towards systems change.”

CBPR starts with identifying a topic of importance to the community. Academics involved will design the research questions and develop a methodological approach, while the community will define what that means in terms of the community and collect data to be analyzed by academics. With the results of the study, the community can use the evidence produced from the study to advocate for policy and program reforms. For this reason community-based research can, in some cases, produce findings and end-results more quickly and accurately than traditional research methods.

As well, because of community involvement, the study is more relevant and applicable to the community. Therefore, it can be implemented to change policy and programs to produce real change within the community.

drawn hands layered on top of each other


Although the results may not be able to be generalized to all communities, the community involved in the process will be able to take and implement the results, apply them, and produce visible change.

For this reason, CCPH urges the National Institute of Health (NIH) to embrace community-based participatory research as an effective method for engaging communities and increasing the quality and impact of research in producing social change.

So, what can we learn from community-based participatory research? The answer is a lot! By academics and communities working in effective partnerships the research can yield results that are beneficial to the community and in implementing policy change. With evidence produced by the study it is difficult to refute effects that policy change would otherwise produce, thus making CBPR an effective research method for producing policy changes, particularly in the field of health.