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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:

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:

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:

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:

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