Researchers implemented a model designed to enhance the ability of community-based organizations (CBOs) in Flint, Michigan, to be partners in local efforts to eliminate health disparities. The goal was to help CBOs proactively engage partners and help determine, implement, and monitor a local prevention research agenda. The project committee, which was co-led by community and university partners, chose a three-pronged approach to developing CBOs’ capacity: assess and monitor the organizations’ capacity to collaborate on center research projects; enhance their financial management skills; and strengthen their ability to collaborate with other CBOs, university researchers, health department systems, and health service providers.
During the project, the CBOs collaborated with the county health department, the university, and a countywide health coalition, all of which were resources for, and provided technical assistance to, the CBOs. CBOs having specific and relevant expertise and experience taught other CBOs. The technical assistance included topics such as understanding survey data, conducting focus groups, developing logic models and budgets, strategic planning, or designing and evaluating programs. Researchers saw an increase in the number of CBO partners who contributed to center publications and presentations during the project. Staff at the CBOs also gained enhanced leadership skills.
The center’s evaluation team also conducted a case study of a program, Your Blessed Health, led by one CBO, YOUR Center. The case study documented changes that the CBO made to its structure and strategies, and the extent to which these changes affected the CBO’s ability to effectively deliver the program. Through the capacity-building project, the CBO strengthened its evaluation methods and secured additional funding.
In related work, community organizations, residents, public health agencies, and students were trained in how to evaluate public health programs or assess community health needs by using survey data sets. Particular attention was paid to enhancing CBOs’ ability to use data collected from the Speak to Your Health! Community Survey. The survey was designed by community, health department, and university partners to examine social determinants of health and to understand and monitor the behaviors and attitudes of residents of Flint and surrounding Genesee County. Researchers conducted the telephone survey in 2005, 2007, and 2009, each with 1,700 to 1,850 participants 18 years of age or older. Researchers randomly sampled households in Genesee County, 20 residents per U.S. census tract in Flint and 10 residents per census tract outside of Flint. This approach enabled researchers to link the survey data with existing data sets (e.g., U.S. census data) and allowed researchers to focus on health and social justice questions rather than demographic questions. Summary tables of survey data are available online; however, to ensure proper use and analysis, raw data must be requested from the center (free of charge). Researchers received over a 100 requests for data analysis from over 20 agencies and organizations. The Genesee County Health Department used the findings to develop and monitor progress of its 5-year strategic plan and in the development and establishment of the county health plan.
The survey data have also been used in grant applications, local media features (newspaper, television, and radio), and health briefs carried by local publications.
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Kruger DJ, Shirey L, Morrel-Samuels S, Skorcz S, Brady J. Using a community-based health survey as a tool for informing local health policy. J Public Health Management Practice 2009 Jan-Feb;15(1):47-53.
Shirey LA, Griffith DM, Brady J, Kruger DJ, Morrel-Samuels S, Greene-Moton E. Challenges and lessons learned in developing a community-based health survey. Progress in Community Health Partnerships 2008 Summer;2(2):99-104.
Griffith DM, Allen JO, DeLoney EH, Robinson K, Lewis EY, Campbell B, Morrel-Samuels S, Sparks A, Zimmerman MA, Reischl T. Community-based organizational capacity building as a strategy to reduce racial health disparities. Journal of Primary Prevention 2010 Apr;31(1-2):31-9.