Project Summary

Background: The PATIENTS Program works extensively with community partners in West Baltimore. Through various projects, they have asked their partners about the types of research they would like to see in their communities. West Baltimore community members have elevated their concerns about exacerbated mental health challenges in their community that escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic and impacted other health areas. Coupled with mental health, community partners relayed concerns about social determinants of health such as gun violence, housing instability and access to healthy food, which impact mental as well as physical health. 

Proposed Solution to the Problem: The project team wants to support local and national partners in their efforts to improve their quality of life and to pursue health equity. Addressing mental health challenges requires a holistic approach. CO-PILLAR will offer training for patients, caregivers and community representatives to talk about community mental health concerns, share promising practices in creating mental health PCOR/CER, and how they can build the capacity to co-create mental health PCOR/CER that addresses the four pillars of health (mental, physical, financial and spiritual).
Objective: The objective is to create virtual, interactive capacity-building programming with community partners, especially those that are underserved, focused on the conduct of PCOR/CER projects aimed at addressing mental health and its intersection with the three other pillars of health (physical, spiritual and financial) in order to improve holistic health (4PH) outcomes.

Activities: The project team will form a Council of Community Partners of individuals with lived experience and subject matter experts on the four pillars of health. The majority of the CCP will be mental health experts including patient and community representatives, academic or community-based researchers, clinicians, caregivers and others who have become mental health advocates. This core will be complemented by community representatives who are subject matter experts on the other pillars of health (physical, spiritual and financial). The role of the CCP will be to guide the work and co-develop all trainings. A virtual, tiered Training Continuum focused on established or promising, community-based capacity building practices in mental health PCOR/CER research will be co-developed and delivered. 

The project team will hold two Community Studios focused on developing community-driven PCOR/CER questions that focus on mental health and its intersection with the other pillars of health. Participants of the CO-PILLAR trainings and invited community members and researchers will come together in these studios to co-develop and refine the research questions.

Projected Outcomes and Outputs:

Short-term (during the project period):

  • The Council of Community Partners with individuals with mental health lived experience and subject matter experts and community representatives of the physical, spiritual and financial pillars of health.
  • A description of the process used to develop the capacity-building training with recommendations on future refinement, so that it can be leveraged by others.
  • A network of local and national participants of 100 people to engage in the Training Continuum. 
  • The final training program and materials for capacity building trainings based on evidence-based practices for sharing promising practices in co-developing mental health PCOR/CER questions inclusive of the other pillars of health (physical, spiritual and financial). 
  • Community Studios that further develop individual and community capacity to positively impact the four pillars of health. This capacity building can foster further mental health PCOR/CER.

Medium-term (0-2 years post-project period):

  • Viable, community-driven research questions in PCOR/CER in mental health that can be further developed and acted upon. 
  • A group of 20 patient/community representatives who are ready to co-develop research and have the tools and skills to engage in PCOR/CER. 
  • Participants in the trainings that can play a leadership role continuing the conversations around mental health PCOR in their communities.

Long-term (3+ years post-project period):

  • Participants from the Training Continuum and community studios will carry out mental health PCOR/CER, likely in collaboration with others, and will continue to engage in PCOR/CER and partner with the PATIENTS Program on future projects.

Patient and Stakeholder Engagement Plan
Council of Community Partners (CCP) 
Similar to their approach to patient engagement when conducting CER, the project team will commit to “continuous patient engagement” throughout the project using the Mullins’ 10-Step Framework. The formation of the Council of Community Partners (CCP) has been purposeful to ensure broad representation from patient and community representatives, academic or community-based researchers, clinicians, caregivers and others who have become mental health advocates. Involving community and patient partners and mental health providers as expert advisors is critical to ensure the patient and stakeholder voice is captured throughout the project. 

Post-Training Engagement
As a result of the trainings, the CCP and the PATIENTS Program will co-generate the deliverables associated with the project and disseminate them on a broad platform. The project team will continue to meet with the CCP to discuss outcomes from the trainings and develop dissemination “give backs” for attendees and the broader public.  

Community Studios
Community Studios facilitate a researcher’s access to a team of multidisciplinary community experts who provide feedback and discuss the resources needed to address questions and improve the investigator’s research. CO-PILLAR participants will have the opportunity to lead the sessions as patient/community experts. Through participation community members voices will be elevated and incorporated into the PCOR/CER process. 

Project Information

Michelle Medeiros, M.A., M.S.
PATIENTS Program, University of Maryland

Key Dates

18 months


Project Status
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: September 6, 2023