Care and Feeding of CRABs

Posted on July 7, 2008

Involve key constituents on community research advisory boards, states Charles F. Reynolds III (bio).


The research advisory board requires a lot of thought; it also requires good relationships with the community. I think what you want is a group of people with a very broad set of perspectives on the health of the particular community that you're interested in studying. People who want to understand what are the social and community determinant of health because it's those factors that are highly relevant, say, to preventive research or to intervention research which is trying to help a particular condition in that community.

Good networking is essential. You have to be really connected to that community in order to identify in a sense what I would call key stakeholders. For example, in the African American community these could include ministers, leaders of important congregations, and churches in the African American community. Given the particular role that the church plays in community health and African American communities, it's very important to have the perspective of ministers, for example, represented on that community research advisory board.

The same would be true of other types of CRABs [community research advisory boards]. You want to identify the key constituencies in the community that you are committed to serving and investigating. You want to be sure that those communities are represented, those constituencies are represented on the CRAB. That enables the CRAB, really, to fulfill its purpose which is to facilitate community-based participatory research, research that yields information that can be used by the community, taken up, sustained and leads to improvements in that community's health.

Members of the CRAB do need to be compensated for their time. Typically a community research advisory board might meet three or four times a year, sometimes more often, typically for meetings of about two hours. And in the case of the CRAB at the University of Pittsburgh graduate school of public health the meetings are held over lunch, transportation expenses are paid and the members are compensated for their time.

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Excerpted from an interview with researcher at the 2008 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA.


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