African-American adolescents, especially those in low-income communities in Atlanta, Georgia, experience health disparities in multiple health domains (e.g., sexual health, chronic health, behavioral health), impacting numerous health outcomes (e.g., HIV, obesity, diabetes, asthma, substance use). Thus, researchers, medical professionals, policy makers, and funding agencies have invested significant resources into health-outcome-focused research to address these varied health disparities afflicting African-American adolescents. Typically, adolescent involvement in health outcomes research has been as research participants only. Engaging African-American youth in low-income Atlanta communities as partners in research could significantly enhance design, implementation, and community participation in health outcomes research, and ultimately facilitate successful uptake of outcomes research findings. However, adolescents are not autonomous. Thus, engaging caregivers, as well as trusted community-based agencies, as partners in research is also vital in order to truly generate successful, translatable research.
Given this gap, our project aims are: 1) engage African-American youth in Atlanta as partners in health outcomes Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR), 2) train youth partners, using a youth development framework for CBPR to increase their knowledge and capacity to serve as research partners, 3) engage and train a group of caregivers and community-based adolescent-serving agencies in CBPR, and involve them as a “support coalition,” 4) facilitate a research partnership between youth, the support coalition, and Atlanta researchers addressing health outcomes associated with a health disparity identified by the group and thoroughly evaluate the entire process.
Long-term objectives are to: 1) establish partnerships between youth partners, the support coalition, and various health outcomes research networks in Atlanta addressing a broad range of health issues, 2) mobilize youth partners and the support coalition in community advocacy about health outcomes research, 3) enhance youth partners’, support coalition members’, and community trust in medical research through engagement and advocacy, and 4) disseminate our adolescent CBPR training program for general use. Using our established youth-focused community and research contacts, we will recruit African-American youth residing in low-income communities in Atlanta, along with an adult support coalition, to serve as partners in adolescent health outcomes research. Youth will be considered the steering arm of the project, and our Emory team will provide developmentally tailored training and support, following a youth development framework approach, a strengths-based approach to engaging youth in CBPR that acknowledges the unique structural support necessary to meaningfully engage and sustain youth involvement.
In addition to training, they will: 1) identify and research health outcomes affecting Atlanta African-American youth and select one to focus their efforts on, 2) create a report on their research and recommendations, 3) present their findings to identified researcher/clinician partners, and 4) host a community event to publicly share their work. The support coalition will be trained in CBPR as well, but their primary mission is to support the youth with guidance, services, feedback and expertise, and also engage in the newly created research partnership.