Asking members of a community what they need, and then partnering to achieve those goals, is the goal of community-based participatory research.
A program using this research approach in the Micronesian island community of Oregon was successful, leading to two additional grants to expand this work.
The team includes lead researcher Connie Nguyen-Truong, PhD, of the WSU College of Nursing Vancouver, who specializes in community-based participatory research. It also includes lead researcher Jacqueline Leung, JD, who is chair of the board of directors of the Micronesian Islander Community Organization, a certified community health worker, and a city councilwoman from Salem, Oregon. The third member is Kapiolani Micky, a program coordinator/community health worker at the Micronesian Islander Community Organization. They received a $125,000 grant from Health & Education Impact Partnerships (Northwest Health Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Care Oregon and Oregon Community Foundation) and a $20,000 grant from the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon Communities United Fund (Coulter Foundation) to support the next phase of their work.
In the first project, the team worked with existing data and parent leaders from the Micronesian island community to identify specific needs, barriers, goals and strategies. These include increasing the number of Micronesian Island women receiving antenatal care early in pregnancy and increasing the number of children attending preschool. The team has two articles about the program accepted for publication in the Asian/Pacific Islander Nursing Journal.
Now the team, through the Micronesian Islander Community Organization-WSU partnership, will identify up to two dozen parent leaders to work with in the areas of leadership, research and civic engagement so that parent leaders can in turn mobilize their community.
In the short term, the strategy could help connect community members to existing resources and services. It should also lead to the creation of new parent clubs and interest groups in schools to support each other. In the longer term, this could lead to more members of the Micronesian island community serving on boards and commissions, testifying about public policy, and taking on leadership roles outside of the community.
This community “continues to be invisible” because it is aggregated by the census under the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander and Asian population group, Nguyen-Truong said. Oregon is believed to have one of the largest concentrations of migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau on the American mainland.
“We would like to expand future work in Washington and nationally,” said Nguyen-Truong, assistant professor at the WSU College of Nursing.
Community-based participatory research requires building relationships and trust, she added. The process is, however, mutually beneficial, with the community and the research team learning from each other.
“We are building human capital and mobilizing resources to help empower the community,” Nguyen-Truong said. “It’s uplifting. That’s what we want through community-based participatory research.