Arkansas ranks 48th in the nation for overall health status and ability to access health care. These poor health rankings highlight the need for innovative and non-traditional approaches, such as engaging the faith community, to improve access to care and health outcomes among Arkansans. Though UAMS has a lengthy history of engaging the faith community, only a few faith leaders have the capacity to engage in research. Overall, faith leaders are seldom approached about engaging in research and when they are, minimal training is available to them. Training is needed to build skills and knowledge to enable them to be equitable partners in research. In addition, only a minute number of faith leaders have the knowledge and capacity to serve as community principal investigators and consultants. This is leading to over-extension of faith community partners, which may lead to burnout. Currently, there is not an infrastructure in place that supports large-scale dissemination of health education and health promotion programs or the capacity to train faith-based organizations to participate as equal partners in research. Without this necessary infrastructure, the reach and sustainability of these novel health programs is severely limited. Therefore, the proposed project is designed to develop the Faith-Academic Initiatives for Transforming Health (FAITH) Network.
The FAITH Network will be a collaboration between UAMS and faith organizations in Arkansas to provide an infrastructure that supports faith-based research as well as the delivery of health programs and health education within faith communities across the state. Perspectives from the faith community are needed to plan, develop, and implement the FAITH Network. Therefore, the objectives of this project include:
- The development of the Arkansas Faith-Academic Initiatives for Transforming Health (FAITH) Network. The FAITH Network will be a collaboration between University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and faith organizations in Arkansas to provide an infrastructure that supports faith-based research.
- Building the faith community’s capacity to engage in partnered comparative effectiveness research and patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) by providing continuous training opportunities specific to the needs of the faith community. This will also provide an opportunity for faith leaders to build upon the concept of “community-building-community.” This is when faith leaders with PCOR experience serve as mentors and advisors to those faith leaders who are new to PCOR.
- Documenting and disseminating the outcomes of the Arkansas FAITH Network and training using both process and summative evaluation. In an effort to ensure the community is engaged and diversely represented, a community advisory board (CAB) will play a key role in the development of the FAITH Network and its programming. The CAB will include members of the faith community who have served in various roles in PCOR or have expressed interest. The FAITH Network will provide ongoing engaged research/PCOR training and partnership development throughout the state.