Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 26, Issue 12, pp 1498–1501 | Cite as

The Role of Community-Based Participatory Research to Inform Local Health Policy: A Case Study

  • Matthew J. O’BrienEmail author
  • Robert C. Whitaker


The community of health services researchers in general internal medicine has played an important role in affecting health policy at the national and state levels. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) offers health services researchers an opportunity to identify and address health policy questions at the local level. We present the following four mechanisms by which CBPR might increase the ability of health services researchers to impact health by informing local policy. CBPR benefits community partners by allowing them to participate directly in the research process, gives academic researchers access to local data, enhances interpretation of research findings through an understanding of local context, and provides a natural infrastructure for affecting local policy through its community partners. For each of these mechanisms, we describe one example from a CBPR project conducted by one of us (M.O.). Considering the challenges and opportunities of conducting CBPR, future efforts will help describe how this emerging research paradigm can complement traditional health services research to most effectively inform health policy at multiple levels.


community-based participatory research health policy Latino health health services research health disparities 



The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Steve Larson, MD, who has helped direct all of the activities described here. We would also like to thank Alice Hausman, PhD, MPH, for her thoughtful comments on a previous draft of this manuscript. This work was supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program and the Temple University Department of Medicine Faculty Development Research Award. This paper has not been previously presented.

Conflict of Interest

None disclosed.


  1. 1.
    Berwick DM, James B, Coye MJ. Connections between quality measurement and improvement. Med Care. 2003;41(1 Suppl):I30–38.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Guthrie B, Auerback G, Bindman AB. Health plan competition for medicaid enrollees based on performance does not improve quality of care. Health Aff (Millwood). 2010;29(8):1507–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hernandez AF, Shea AM, Milano CA, et al. Long-term outcomes and costs of ventricular assist devices among Medicare beneficiaries. JAMA. 2008;300(20):2398–406.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ku L. Medical and dental care utilization and expenditures under Medicaid and private health insurance. Med Care Res Rev. 2009;66(4):456–71.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bynum J, Song Y, Fisher E. Variation in prostate-specific antigen screening in men aged 80 and older in fee-for-service Medicare. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010;58(4):674–80.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cooper LA, Beach MC, Johnson RL, Inui TS. Delving below the surface. Understanding how race and ethnicity influence relationships in health care. J Gen Intern Med. 2006;21(Suppl 1):S21–27.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Themba MN, Minkler M. Influencing Policy Through Community-Based Participatory Research. In: Minkler M, Wallerstein NB, eds. Community-Based Participatory Research for Health. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2003:349–70.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Horowitz CR, Robinson M, Seifer S. Community-based participatory research from the margin to the mainstream: are researchers prepared? Circulation. 2009;119(19):2633–42.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Wallerstein NB, Duran B. Using community-based participatory research to address health disparities. Health Promot Pract. 2006;7(3):312–23.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Israel BA, Eng E, Schulz AJ, Parker EA. Introduction to Methods in Community-Based Participatory Research for Health. In: Israel BA, Eng E, Schulz AJ, Parker EA, eds. Methods in Community-Based Participatory Research for Health. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2005:3–26.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Corbie-Smith G, Ammerman AS, Katz ML, et al. Trust, benefit, satisfaction, and burden: a randomized controlled trial to reduce cancer risk through African-American churches. J Gen Intern Med. 2003;18(7):531–41.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Horowitz CR, Williams L, Bickell NA. A community-centered approach to diabetes in East Harlem. J Gen Intern Med. 2003;18(7):542–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Lam TK, McPhee SJ, Mock J, et al. Encouraging Vietnamese-American women to obtain Pap tests through lay health worker outreach and media education. J Gen Intern Med. 2003;18(7):516–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    O'Toole TP, Aaron KF, Chin MH, Horowitz C, Tyson F. Community-based participatory research: opportunities, challenges, and the need for a common language. J Gen Intern Med. 2003;18(7):592–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Dell JL, Whitman S. A History of the Movement to Address Health Disparities. In: Whitman S, Shah AM, Benjamins MR, eds. Urban Health: Combating Disparities with Local Data. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2010:8–36.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Horowitz CR, Brenner BL, Lachapelle S, Amara DA, Arniella G. Effective recruitment of minority populations through community-led strategies. Am J Prev Med. 2009;37(6 Suppl 1):S195–200.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    O'Brien MJ, Halbert CH, Bixby R, Pimentel S, Shea JA. Community health worker intervention to decrease cervical cancer disparities in Hispanic women. J Gen Intern Med. 2010;25(11):1186–92.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Bandi P, Barrera C, Casares C, et al. Cancer Facts and Figures for Hispanics/Latinos. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society;2009.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Howe HL, Wu X, Ries LA, et al. Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, 1975–2003, featuring cancer among U.S. Hispanic/Latino populations. Cancer. 2006;107(8):1711–42.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew J. O’Brien
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Robert C. Whitaker
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Obesity Research and EducationTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.School of Medicine, Section of General Internal MedicineTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Public HealthTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Puentes de Salud ClinicPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations