The Community Coalition for Equity in Research: An Innovative Approach to Improve Community Engagement and Health Equity

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Background: The inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the critical need for development of mechanisms to serve as a bridge between community practitioners and academic researchers. Far too often, community practitioners are approached for feedback or involvement in research long after planning begins. This limits the impact that community-based insight and expertise can have, and prevents the development of trust-based, respectful relationships between researchers and community practitioners.

Approach: This abstract describes the development, implementation, and evaluation of the Community Coalition for Equity in Research, a community-driven resource developed at Harvard Catalyst: Harvard's Clinical and Translational Science Center designed to build skills among community members for providing researchers with actionable input on research and increase researchers’ understanding of how to embed considerations of equity into research projects – from planning through dissemination stages. We will share practical lessons learned from the first two years of the initiative that can help to inform scale up. These include how other academic institutions and community leaders can co-create similar equity-centered coalitions as well as strategies for recruitment of community practitioners and establishing collaborative governance. We will describe the process the coalition used for developing a health equity review rubric and explain how the rubric is used to gather feedback on individual research studies and identify common areas for improvement across projects. Finally, we will demonstrate our approaches for facilitating constructive feedback discussions between researchers and practitioners along with our pragmatic methods for evaluation and continuous improvement.

The Community Coalition for Equity in Research is an innovative approach for bridging academia and practice. Successful implementation will increase the number of research studies designed with community interests and equity priorities in mind. The coalition also serves to build trusting academic-practice partnerships desperately needed to address our most pressing public health challenges. This approach has the potential for scale up and broad reach given the practical tools and strategies developed for implementation.

Director, Community Engagement Program, Harvard Catalyst