Community Engagement in a Virtual World: Tweets, Salons and Conversations
The New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Sciences (NJ ACTS) Community Engagement Core (CEC) was initiated in 2019 by Shawna Hudson, PhD and Alfred Tallia, MD. The program facilitates community engagement to address critical health and healthcare issues for the population of New Jersey by drawing upon the existing strengths of our collaborative research consortia, richly heterogeneous communities, and interdisciplinary researchers participating in a broad array of mixed-method research approaches. Through our Network of Networks including the New Jersey Primary Care Research Network, we strengthen existing and build new partnerships with community-based organizations, citizen scientists, primary care physicians, and other key stakeholders, capitalizing on the ongoing consolidation of healthcare resource institutions into systems of care within the state. COVID-19 forced our newly developed team to rethink the way traditional community engagement was conducted. We developed a COVID-19 Resource Directory, increased our blog entries, and social media posting. Face-to-face interactions with our stakeholders halted and we developed methods of communication using video platforms that enabled us to continue successful connections, share information, share stories, and our experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team even learned how to “Tweet” for a Twitter Chat we co-sponsored on equity and social justice. The lessons learned in the early months of the pandemic were poured into the RADxUP application that we submitted in August 2020. On September 20th, 2020 our work was validated with a $5 million grant from NIH entitled NJ HEROES TOO aimed at improving access to COVID-19 testing in vulnerable and underrepresented communities.