Background: The faith community (e.g., places of worship) has historically played an important role in the health of the public. Indeed, faith communities are some of the most trusted institutions in the community and serve as “gateways” or venues through which health information and health programming is delivered. During the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have recognized the value in engaging the faith community in health, particularly during times of crises. Few researchers have been trained, however, to partner with communities of faith in patient centered outcomes research (PCOR) and comparative effectiveness research (CER).
Proposed Solution to the Problem: To meet the needs of researchers, additional training opportunities should be provided to share with them the principles of PCOR/CER. Additionally, engaging faith communities in PCOR/CER is a specialized area that requires a specific skill set. Because of the various religious and spiritual beliefs related to health, it is important for researchers to have some basic understanding of some of the belief systems of the more popular religious sects and to understand the institutional structure of these religious organizations as well. This is vital in building relationships, partnerships, and trust. Additionally, bringing groups together who do not share the same belief system and often cultural or even language background can add another layer of complexity. Though many of the researchers may not commit to a research portfolio dedicated to faith-based research, it is important for them to know and understand this basic information when engaging the Faith-Academic Initiatives for Transforming Health (FAITH) Network.
Objectives: There are two objectives for the current project: (1) increase the capacity of researchers to conduct faith-based PCOR/CER and (2) increase the capacity of faith leaders to serve as PCOR/CER consultants.
Activities: The FAITH Network team will work collaboratively to meet the objective of the project. To address Objective 1, the project team (including UAMS staff and FAITH Network Ambassadors) will tailor an existing PCOR/CER training for researchers (e.g., MD Anderson Center's CERTaIN) to make it applicable to partnering with communities of faith in PCOR/CER. After the training has been tailored, it will be piloted with researchers in Arkansas, evaluated and then revised, if needed prior to making it available "On Demand" through a web-based platform. The training will then be made available for researchers throughout the U.S. To address Objective 2, the UAMS based project team members will work with Dr. Laverne Morrow Carter from Research, Education, and Social Solutions, Inc. (REESSI) to develop a training for faith leaders to serve as consultants to researchers wanting to engage the faith community in research.
Projected Outcomes and Outputs: The short-term outcome of the project is to develop and pilot a faith-based PCOR/CER training for researchers and a consultant training for faith leaders to advise researchers. After the project period, the mid-term outcome is to continue to support researcher training through on-demand training opportunities and live sessions when requested. Lastly, the long-term goal is to increase researchers’ knowledge about PCOR/CER and, in particular, how to engage and partner with faith communities in research. A structured consultation service provided by faith leaders to researchers will also provide ongoing support to researchers as new research ideas and studies are developed.
Patient and Stakeholder Engagement Plan: The FAITH Network Research Ambassadors who represent the five public health regions of Arkansas will be engaged and heavily integrated into every aspect of the project. Other community consultants will also add their content expertise to the project. Faith leaders throughout the state will be continuously engaged during the funding period through webinars, podcasts, and evaluation surveys/interview. Lastly, the broader community will be invited to participate in the dissemination of the project outcomes through convenings and other avenues.
Project Collaborators: The project collaborators include Research, Education, and Social Solutions, Inc. (REESSI) and University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.