Dr Shauntice Allen Discusses Community Engagement in Public Health Research
Programs like One Great Community aim to engage communities in the process of population health research, which is a key to successful public health initiatives, explained Shauntice Allen, PhD, assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health.
Transcript (slightly modified) What kind of work does the One Great Community program do?
One Great Community is the community engagement component of a larger grant initiative at UAB, University of Alabama at Birmingham, titled the CTSA, which is a part of the NIH enterprise. CTSA stands for Clinical and Translational Science Award, and there are 62 institutions across the country that have that funding, and UAB where I am is one of those places.
One Great Community’s real role and mission is to involve communities in how research is done, not just as study participants, but also as informers and influencers of what we study, what questions are asked, how those questions are answered, who’s at the table to help address that. That’s what One Great Community does.
What are some difficulties in applying public health research to real communities?
I think sometimes those of us who are in public health and who do public health research, sometimes it’s because there’s so many issues that one could address in a particular study, whatever it is. If you’re looking at diabetes in a population, or if you’re looking at the disease progression of cancer across the spectrum, if you’re doing bench science, for instance, I think sometimes the lines are blurred.
In public health we have a tendency, we want to do a lot of things when we may sometimes need to pull from the medical model and just focus on what it is that we really do know how to do, and address the issues that we are comfortable working in. Public health is such a big field, and everything is public health, particularly when it comes to training young professionals and those who are going to go out into the field, be your boots on the ground, be a researcher, be running a health department or whatever.
Number one, understanding what public health is, it’s a lot of things. But at the end of the day what we’re trying to do is just impact health, communities’ health.