Commentary: Not about us without us.Acad Med. 2009 Oct; 84(10):1333-5.AM
Disparities in health care are pervasive, but the patterns vary substantially across the nation. Solutions to eliminate health care disparities associated with patient race, ethnicity, income, education, geography, and other factors must be customized to address the specific circumstances of each community. The urgency of addressing disparities exceeds the available evidence to do so. In this context, community-based participatory research (CBPR) offers an appealing strategy to develop the requisite evidence while improving care.Using case studies from their experience, Moreno and colleagues convey a thoughtful, realistic account of the University of California, Los Angeles Family Medicine CBPR experience focused on addressing disparities in health and health care among racial/ethnic minority immigrant populations in a Los Angeles County community. This report highlights both the potential for community transformation and the challenges encountered by medical student researchers in the quest to establish meaningful partnerships that promote and value community members' contributions to the research areas under study, with the goal of improving health outcomes and reducing health care disparities.The authors of this commentary believe that the ongoing national debate addressing the need to reform the health care system in the United States and reduce health and health care disparities for underserved populations will bring increased focus on applying the tenets of CBPR. Sustaining relevant health care services research that engages community partners, researchers, and funders is a promising model of community engagement with potential for replication and sustainability.