Community engagement during COVID: A field report from seven CTSAs
Prior to the COVID pandemic, many CTSAs employed face-to-face interactions to conduct most of their community engagement (CE) activities. During the COVID pandemic, such engagement had to be curtailed and alternatives needed to be formulated. In addition, Community Engaged Research (CEnR) teams refocused their efforts to address this public health crisis.
To obtain a general understanding of how CTSAs have conducted CE and CEnR during the COVID pandemic, we invited seven CTSA CE leaders to provide brief field reports of their activities during the pandemic. This included how their approaches to CE and CEnR were modified during the COVID-19 pandemic and key lessons learned.
We found that despite numerous challenges, all seven CTSAs CE cores were able to successfully carry out CE and CEnR. We also found that the fundamental principles of meaningful and authentic stakeholder engagement were of paramount importance during the pandemic. Through virtual approaches, all sites had considerable success in maintaining CE in during the COVID pandemic. They also leveraged existing bi-directional community partnerships to carry out meaningful and impactful research. This included both new COVID CEnR and also innovative approaches to sustain prior non-COVID research.
These findings suggest that academic-community partnerships must be fostered and sustained over the many years so that when such crises emerge, all partners can build on existing trust and mutual respect. The lessons learned and the new tools and approaches developed would be key in addressing any such future public health emergencies.