Beginner’s Guide to Community-Based Participatory Research
With diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts currently at the forefront of the research community’s collective mind, we’re also seeing increased interest in community-based participatory research (CBPR). Advarra’s institutional review board (IRB) members have had many conversations with researchers about how best to approach this type of research from a participant protections perspective. So what is CBPR? And what does it have to do with research diversity, equity, and inclusion? In this blog we define CBPR, explain common ways it is employed in research, and the benefits of conducting CBPR.
What is Community-based Participatory Research?
Also referred to as community-based research (CBR), CBPR is a partnership-based approach to research that takes place in community settings and involves community members in the project’s design and implementation.
Aimed to unite researchers and communities with shared goals, CBPR typically involves diverse community members, organizational representatives, and researchers in all aspects of the process from start to finish.
Dating back to the 1980s, CBPR’s basic principles of participatory research were introduced by:
- Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
- Indian Health Service (IHS)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
In 1995, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) became the first of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support CBPR when it funded 15 CBPR projects.
While CBPR is not confined to research in the area of health, it is most commonly employed in that arena. Typical topics for investigation include public health issues like HIV and violence prevention, mental health issues, and chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. In recent years, CBPR has especially been linked to an interest in studying and addressing health disparities and inequities and the conviction that communities that partner with researchers have a unique opportunity to improve their members’ health status. Oftentimes, CBPR is employed in research aimed to reduce or eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities in under-represented populations.
Why Engage in CBPR?
There are many reasons to engage in CBPR, including:
- Improving research quality and validity by leveraging local knowledge and local theory based on the lived experience of the people involved
- Strengthening the research and program development capacity of the partners
- Overcoming the distrust of communities that have historically been the “subjects” of research
- Working to bridge cultural gaps that may exist between the parties involved
What Does it Take to Succeed in CBPR?
Success with CBPR requires full cooperation between all stakeholders in the study’s design, implementation, and evaluation. Additional requirements include:
- Open communication among all stakeholders
- Full transparency and free sharing of ideas and experiences
- Trust in and among all stakeholders
- An equal sharing of power across all stakeholders
- A shared commitment to the benefit for the community
Considerations for IRBs
Note that CBPR introduces a new set of considerations for institutional review boards (IRBs). As a result, it’s reasonable to ask your IRB what experience, if any, it has with CBPR, and what additional or unique considerations it will include in its review of a CBPR project. Some examples include:
- Asking additional questions (in an application) from the principal investigator (PI) and study team or sponsor to help the IRB understand the roles of community partners
- Assessing the adequacy of community engagement to ensure respect for the community affected
- Assessing of adequate training for community partners
- Gathering conflict of interest disclosures from the community partners, if applicable