Integrating community-based participatory research and informatics approaches to improve the engagement and health of underserved populations

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2016 Jan;23(1):60-73. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocv094. Epub 2015 Jul 30.


Objective: We compare 5 health informatics research projects that applied community-based participatory research (CBPR) approaches with the goal of extending existing CBPR principles to address issues specific to health informatics research.

Materials and methods: We conducted a cross-case analysis of 5 diverse case studies with 1 common element: integration of CBPR approaches into health informatics research. After reviewing publications and other case-related materials, all coauthors engaged in collaborative discussions focused on CBPR. Researchers mapped each case to an existing CBPR framework, examined each case individually for success factors and barriers, and identified common patterns across cases.

Results: Benefits of applying CBPR approaches to health informatics research across the cases included the following: developing more relevant research with wider impact, greater engagement with diverse populations, improved internal validity, more rapid translation of research into action, and the development of people. Challenges of applying CBPR to health informatics research included requirements to develop strong, sustainable academic-community partnerships and mismatches related to cultural and temporal factors. Several technology-related challenges, including needs to define ownership of technology outputs and to build technical capacity with community partners, also emerged from our analysis. Finally, we created several principles that extended an existing CBPR framework to specifically address health informatics research requirements.

Conclusions: Our cross-case analysis yielded valuable insights regarding CBPR implementation in health informatics research and identified valuable lessons useful for future CBPR-based research. The benefits of applying CBPR approaches can be significant, particularly in engaging populations that are typically underserved by health care and in designing patient-facing technology.

Keywords: community-based participatory research; mHealth; patient empowerment; patient-centered care; research design.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research
  • Community-Based Participatory Research*
  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics*
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • United States
  • Vulnerable Populations*