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I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health-oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.
A proposal to evaluate community engagement so stakeholder-involved interventions can be compared (and a literature about best practices can emerge internationally) is described in a pioneering article recently published in Science.
Specifically, Science reports there is need for an evidence-base to compare the results of stakeholder engagement programs in the U.S. and other nations that use these initiatives to improve individual and public health. The author, a community and stakeholder engagement researcher from Emory University, infers a barrier to progress in all efforts is the lack of an empirical foundation to uniformly evaluate initiatives.
The author writes (and we quote): 'For (community engagement practices) to become more widely accepted by funders and researchers, and to contribute more conspicuously to the success of science programs and policy, it will have to establish a more coherent and convincing body of evidence about the nature of …strategies and their specific contributions to the performance of science programs' (end of quote).
The author explains current best practices in community engagement research contain similar characteristics, such as:
- Clear and consistent leadership to establish community engagement as a priority in a program or intervention
- Consistent support from funders for community engagement efforts
- An inclusive perspective about involving stakeholders
- A willingness to be flexible to conduct campaigns, projects, or trials in response to stakeholder input
- A clear and succinct set of guiding principles and ethical commitments to stakeholders.
- An explicit management strategy — integrated with day-to-day program management — that operationalizes the effort's guiding principles and adopts stakeholder interests as a central focus
- And a commitment to assess community engagement activities by all stakeholders.
However, the author acknowledges these characteristics rarely are operationalized into specific measures that researchers can use to evaluate stakeholder engagement programs.
Although the author suggests it would be helpful if community engagement programs simply reported their initial strategies and discussed what works and how outcomes are conceptualized and measured, the author adds more foundational measures are needed so a shared body of knowledge can emerge globally.
The author emphasizes (and we quote): 'more production and reporting of this type of evidence should eventually reduce unproductive conceptual and linguistic variability and could provide valuable insights to improve theories of change for how (engagement) works and identify what tailoring and scaling might be required by different contexts' (end of quote).
The author concludes (and we quote): 'An empirical evidence-based approach will eventually sort out how and under what circumstances (community and stakeholder engagement efforts) add both ethical and practical value to science programs' (end of quote).
Most importantly, the author suggests contemporary efforts to improve public health, enhance the health of vulnerable populations, and overcome health disparities via stakeholder involved efforts eventually depend on developing a foundation to foster new evidence-based protocols of practice.
Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health provides an overview of the broader challenges of health disparities in the U.S. within the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's health disparities health topic page.
The Rural Health Information Hub provides information about disparities in America's rural areas within the 'specifics' section of MedlinePlus.gov's health disparities health topic page.
Links to the latest pertinent journal research articles about health disparities are available in the 'journal articles' section of MedlinePlus.gov's health disparities health topic page. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area also are available in the 'clinical trials' section.
To find MedlinePlus.gov's health disparities health topic page, please type 'health disparities' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'health disparities (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also contains health topic pages that address disparities among specific populations including: African American Health; Hispanic American Health; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Health; and Native American Health.
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