Background: Findings in a local study of vaccine hesitancy reveal a significant barrier new to COVID-19 vaccine uptake: unfamiliarity with and uncertainty about the vaccine development and research process. Participants who overcame these barriers had personal access to trusted members of the medical/research community. Engaging community members as co-researchers from the initiation of the research process can educate community members through active participation while building sustaining relationships between the community and researchers.
Proposed Solution to the Problem: Situated within HamesNet, Co-Researcher Activation NEtwork (CRANE) will build institutional and community capacity for COVID-19 patient-centered outcomes research/comparative clinical effectiveness research (PCOR/CER) through convening and training Community Co-Researcher Circles. This solution is designed in direct response to our formative research, which revealed the need to focus on building trusting relationships with experts. The solution focuses on engaging community members as “co‐researchers,” carrying out research with/by community members who are not professional researchers instead of to/about/for them.
Objectives: The long-term goal is to create a thriving community-clinical-academic collaboration actively engaged in conducting PCOR/CER.
- Increase community stakeholder capacity for COVID-19 PCOR/CER.
- Engage community members to identify patient-centered outcomes related to COVID-19 and prioritize PCOR/CER community topics or themes, COVID-19 priority areas, gaps in COVID-19 research, and future PCOR/CER questions in the underserved community.
- Cultivate restorative engagement through ongoing transformational relationships
Activities: Educate and train stakeholders on the fundamentals of PCOR/CER; establish a sustainable collaborative or learning community; engage stakeholders to identify important patient-centered outcomes, prioritize PCOR/CER topics or themes, and/or develop a research agenda; and capture stakeholder perspectives on emerging PCOR/CER needs and barriers/facilitators to patient-centered research
Projected Outcomes and Outputs: In the short term, during the project period, we expect to engage 45 community members in interviews and facilitate training for 30 community members and CRANE stakeholders. Within nine months, we will convene a Community Co-Researcher Council of community members and Community Co-Researcher Circles (geographically situated throughout Augusta, Georgia). Each circle will include local community members and clinicians. At the end of 18 months, the council will identify the top two to three COVID priority areas for the community and future PCOR/CER questions. In the medium term, we expect to continue community member training and engagement. In the long term, we aim to cultivate restorative engagement through ongoing transformational relationships, influencing community health through the community-driven implemented projects.
Patient and Stakeholder Engagement Plan: Community members have already engaged in this project, inspiring the creation of CRANE through ongoing vaccine hesitancy work in the community. The proposed solution focuses on engaging community members as co‐researchers. The Community Co-Researcher Council will advise on all phases of the project, such as messaging, outreach, materials, and sustainability. Community co-researchers will be compensated. Key personnel include (1) an epidemiologist who has built critical community relationships with the local faith community, 100 Black Men of Augusta, and local barber shops through community COVID-19 relief events; (2) the director of the Augusta University (AU) IRB office, who formed AU’s Human Resources Protection Program Community Advisory Board; (3) a family physician at the Harrisburg Family Healthcare Center; and (4) a primary care physician at a local FQHC.
Project Collaborators: Project leaders will collaborate with clinical sites that serve underserved populations in Augusta (Christ Community Health FQHC, Harrisburg Medical Clinic, AU Health), local small businesses, and the local faith community.