Handbook of Health Communication

By Teresa L. Thompson; Alicia M. Dorsey et al. | Go to book overview

29
Lessons Learned about
Academic and Public Health
Collaborations in the Conduct
of Community-Based Research
Roxanne Parrott
Pennsylvania State University
Carol Steiner
Georgia Department of Human Resources

The work of strategic health communicators, those of us who intentionally seek to build and apply theory and research comprising the domain of health communication, is intended to reap positive health benefits. As this volume illustrates, we do not have to try very hard to find examples where we have succeeded. Such success contributes to increased interest in and demand for well-trained health communicators (see Kreps this volume). Unfortunately, as this volume also demonstrates, we do not have to exert much effort to identify situations in which health communicators' efforts failed to achieve the goals established in association with a particular project. This is especially true in communitybased research where “formal organizations such as local government and businesses; educational institutions; voluntary associations such as religious, fraternal, or service groups; informal social networks; families; and individuals” (Schooler & Flora, 1997, p. 285) all comprise audiences with potential to influence health behavior.

Working with communities in relation to health affords researchers opportunities to: (a) improve the quality and validity of research owing to the involvement of people whose lives will be reflected and impacted; (b) recognize the limitations of approaching science as value-free; and (c) help bridge cultural gaps (Israel, Schulz, Parker, & Becker, 1998, pp. 180–181). The lack of trust exhibited between researchers and communities, and the inherently unequal distributions of power and resources, however, impede these endeavors (Israel et al., 1998). Based on our collaborative efforts during the previous decade, we assert that academic and public health linkages represent one strategy to address the barriers associated with conducting community-based research. Additionally, these linkages increase the likelihood that effective health programs and health promotion strategies will be institutionalized. In these collaborative endeavors, rather than treating public health

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