Mistrust, fear, stigma and lack of understanding or awareness of research or service programs may also keep these individuals away from research and services. El Centro works to develop and implement research methodologies that break down barriers to research participation and access to care. An important part of this work involves reaching out and listening to community members regarding their preferences and priorities for services, and building partnerships with community agencies who are on the front-line of working with minority and other vulnerable groups and have considerable expertise in this area.
Ethnic and sexual minority groups are at greater risk than the general population for many health conditions, including those that we study at El Centro, yet they tend to be underrepresented in research. The reasons for underrepresentation in research include researcher’s ineffective outreach to minority communities, their inability to explain their studies using plain language and lack of translated measurement tools. When vulnerable groups are underrepresented in research, individual members miss out on the possible benefits of participating in research, and more importantly, the study findings might not be applicable to those groups so that the groups themselves miss out on the benefits of innovations in health-promoting interventions. El Centro works to develop culturally-tailored research methodologies aimed at benefiting ethnic and sexual minority groups by engaging them in research studies. Many of our studies combine qualitative and quantitative methods which allow us to more fully learn about the lived and cultural experiences of individuals from the groups we study. We use Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) to engage the community as partners in research, reducing the gap between academic institutions and the community. Culturally-tailored methodologies also inform the way El Centro approaches participant recruitment and assessment. El Centro maintains a measures library including all measures used in our studies, the majority of which are translated into Spanish.
Community engagement has been defined by a Center for Disease Control committee as a process of working collaboratively with groups from the community to address issues affecting the well-being of its members. El Centro’s Community Engagement, Dissemination, and Implementation (CEDI) team seeks to engage community leaders, agencies, and coalitions to work collaboratively to increase heath literacy and to improve our partners’ research and treatment capacity. Achieving this in a culturally informed manner means that when we reach out to community members, we put in extra effort to engage people that are not always visible and active in such efforts. It means that in our health literacy efforts we provide health information in languages other than English. It means that when we identify evidence based practices we focus on those that have been tested with or adapted for minority populations with differing levels of acculturation.