Community Outreach and Engagement: Reimagined and Redefined in the time of COVID-19
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, traditional, in-person methods of community outreach and engagement (CE) had to be reimagined and redefined in order to accommodate new COVID-19 life-style and community needs. Through CE, the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute (OCTRI) Community Research Hub works to connect and support researchers and community organizations (CBOs) to facilitate, grow and strengthen community-engaged research. The Hub model consists of a team of Community Research Liaisons (CRLs) who live and work in communities across the state. The CRL team structure lent itself to rapidly responding and prioritizing different community needs and the changing COVID environment by working with CBOs to transition to virtual collaboration and work, facilitate information sharing about the pandemic, adapt existing programs, develop new programs, and write grants to fund this program adaptation and development. In addition, increased emphasis on health equity and providing emotional support to colleagues and community partners has underscored all CE work as everyone navigates a national crisis. Advancing health research and improving health outcomes makes CE arguably more important than ever right now. Thus being able to find new and effective ways to engage with communities when previous ways are no longer an option is essential to science and public health.