ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Arizona Study Examines Flexible Roles for American Indian Elders in Community-Based Participatory Research

Community-based participatory research builds partnerships between communities and academic researchers to engage in research design, decision making, data collection, and dissemination of health promotion initiatives. Community-based participatory projects often have formal agreements or defined roles for community and academic partners.

Over a two-year period, Ms. Shannon Whitewater, a health educator and colleagues from the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, documented life narratives of urban American Indian elders as a foundation for developing a resilience-based health promotion curriculum for urban American Indian adolescents aged 12 to 18. The study is published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

The researchers used a flexible method for engaging community partners that honored the individual strengths of elders, encouraged them to describe how they wanted to contribute to the project, and provided multiple ways for elders to engage with university partners.

The elders were invited to participate in one or more of the following roles: as members of consensus panels to develop interview questions, as members of a community advisory board, or as participants in individual qualitative interviews. The flexibility of roles gave elders the opportunity to serve as advisors, co-developers, interviewees, or reviewers during two years of curriculum development.

The researchers concluded that engaging American Indian elders in the research process acknowledged the multiple layers of expertise they had as traditional leaders in the community while promoting trust in and ownership of the project. This flexible technique can be used by other communities that may not be comfortable with structured processes of engagement.

Flexible Roles for American Indian Elders in Community-Based Participatory Research

Preventing Chronic Disease, June 2, 2016