Using a Community-Based Participatory Research Approach to Improve Health Disparities among Youth and Adults in the Dan River Region

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Virginia Tech

As defined by the US Department of Health and Human Services, health disparities are "a particular type of health differences that are closely linked with social or economic disadvantages." These disadvantages include, but are not limited to, unequal access to quality health care and health information. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people based on racial or ethnic group, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, age, mental health, cognitive, sensory, or physical disability, sexual orientation, geographic location, or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion. To address the root cause of health disparities there has been a call for more comprehensive frameworks for detecting, understanding, and designing interventions that will reduce or eliminate health disparities. One such framework is a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach. CBPR is an orientation to research that focuses on relationships between academic and community partners, with principles of co-learning, mutual benefits, and long term commitment. CBPR also focuses on aspects of importance to the community with the aim of combining knowledge and action for social change to improve community health and eliminate health disparities.

The overall goal of this dissertation is to build capacity and address health disparities among youth and adults in the Dan River Region. This region is federally designated as a medically under-served area/population and is located in the health disparate region of south central Virginia and north central North Carolina. This research draws on two CBPR projects, including an 8-week community garden program lead by the Dan River Partnership for a Healthy Community (DRPHC) and a 3-month childhood obesity treatment program, iChoose, led by the Partnering for Obesity Planning and Sustainability (POPS) Community Advisory Board (CAB).

Since one of the primary aims for CBPR is to increase community capacity, this approach is the ideal process for engaging communities that suffer from health disparities. Thus, engaging community members as collaborators, our studies reported on the relevance and application of CBPR while simultaneously addressing health and capacity outcomes in the health disparate Dan River Region.

community-based participatory research, health disparities, capacity, Nutrition, physical activity