This article describes how community-based participatory action research (CBPAR), especially in peer-based mental health settings, can advance community empowerment and health equity.
To drive health equity and reduce health disparities, providers and researchers can work with the communities they serve through participatory research and care delivery quality improvement. Fountain House, the founder of the Clubhouse model for peer-based psychosocial rehabilitation for people with serious mental illness, has incorporated CBPAR into its research and service programs. This article describes how using CBPAR can advance equity-focused research and benefit the communities where research is conducted.
CBPAR is defined as a collaborative approach that involves all partners, including community stakeholders, at all levels of the research process. Clubhouse programs align well with the participatory element of CBPAR methods, where people with serious mental illness are invited to co-operate and co-administer Clubhouse operations. Fountain House members learn and direct the community’s research interests and priorities. For example, in a partnership between Fountain House and Yale University, Clubhouse members were trained to conduct a qualitative analysis of member and community care needs, experiences, and trajectories. The study results informed programmatic changes, including a new member orientation and needs assessment procedures to engage members early on in their membership.
CBPAR empowers the individuals intended to benefit from research to shape that improvement for themselves, which is key in rehabilitation settings like Clubhouse programs. Researchers, clinical teams, consumer communities, payers, and policymakers should engage in and promote CBPAR to enhance health equity-focused research approaches and ensure that this research translates into care delivery.