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Community Research Scholars Initiative – An Opportunity to Increase UHCAN Ohio’s Research Capacity

UHCAN Ohio was recently selected to participate in a two-year training program called the Community Research Scholars Initiative through Case Western Reserve University and Metro Health Hospital. The program is designed to increase nonprofit organizations’ research and evaluation skills by training research scholars and creating a Community Research Network. A key goal of this program is for each scholar to conduct a research project aimed at eliminating and reducing health disparities.

UHCAN Ohio has been at the forefront of health care advocacy for more than 20 years. But we still have a lot to learn about how to change our complex health system so that it meets the needs of every Ohioan. How do we make health care more affordable without cutting needed services, reduce health disparities, and improve the health of people with low incomes? Evidence-based practices are essential to guide work strategies and improve health outcomes. Consumers need to have a voice in health care decision-making, and increased research capacity will strengthen UHCAN Ohio’s ability to bring consumers’ needs to the table.

For example,we’ve known for years that community health workers play a critical role assisting people in under-served communities to overcome barriers to health. And we knew that many community programs were using CHWs effectively, but had sustainability (funding) issues. So we conducted a survey of current use of CHWS in Ohio and developed policy recommendations based on the findings of our survey and research. We’re using that report to advocate for expanded use of CHWs to improve population health, especially in communities of color and other populations with disproportionately bad health.

Successful advocacy is based on knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of public policy and program goals. Understanding research findings and the implications for consumers is essential to our work. Research helps to frame how we present our work to our various constituencies and reflects our vision and insight.

The Community Research Scholars Initiative seeks to increase awareness of research and understanding of its importance among all agency staff. Using research to inform our programming helps us to identify new opportunities, develop best practices, and assess program performance. Monthly meetings are conducted with scholars, executive directors, and supervisors to provide an opportunity to listen to presentations on research, network, learn from each other, and discuss the scholar’s research design. UHCAN Ohio is part of a cohort of six agencies selected to participate that also includes United Way 211, Asian Services in Action, Inc. (ASIA, Inc.), Open Doors Academy, LGBT Community Center, and West-Side Community Center. This is the second cohort of scholars to participate in this project.

 

For additional information on the Community Research Scholars Initiative, contact our Cleveland office, Yvonne Oliver at 216-241-8422 or [email protected].