Center for Urban Population Health

Community Connections

Center for Urban Population Health MeetingEngagement

The Center for Urban Population Health (CUPH) exists to advance population health research and education to improve the health of urban communities. CUPH seeks to create an environment for innovation, and do so by bridging academic interests and community need through community-academic partnerships.  

Community and academic engagement is embedded in the organizational culture of the Center since its inception and continues to be at the heart of its mission.  CUPH establishes strategic and project specific collaborations with partners such as:

  • Health departments
  • Schools
  • Social service agencies
  • Community advocacy groups

Engaging Community and Academia in Partnerships to Identify Solutions

CUPH is an expert in creating environments where community and academic partners can digest evidence and collectively adapt what works into local solutions. It provides a menu of approaches to engage with community or academia depending on the stage of research or program development. The Center can support a continuum of approaches, from engaging partnerships in creating new health promotion programming to creating advisory boards to inform and research council development or implementation.  

Why Engage the Community?

It is increasingly necessary for population health researchers to engage the communities they serve in order to effectively identify and address the health disparities that exist. Not only is it the right thing to do, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is changing funding criteria and creating mechanisms specifically addressing the prior lack of involvement of community in health-related research. Many other funding sources have followed NIH’s new road map and are requiring community engagement as part of funding criteria.

There are various approaches to “engaging” community in research. Common approaches include lay community focus groups and advisory boards. Establishing a partnership with the community or an organization directly serving the community is intrinsic to this process.

Why Engage the Academia?

Increasingly, policymakers and funding organizations are requiring that decisions and programs be informed by “evidence” or use “evidence-based” programming. "Traditional" research methods are used typically to create this evidence and are often limited when confronted with the need to discover what works or what is workable in complex "real life" contexts. This can create frustration as a community-based organization, coalition or other association is required to use evidence that doesn’t always match the community reality.

Approaching the university or seeking a community-academic relationship can help create an environment that can bridge the gap between laboratory or clinical evidence and community-based need.  Creating or participating in community-academic advisory boards and co-creating evidence can help minimize some of the barriers and challenges from the outset.