Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR)

The work of the Newark Community Collaborative Board (NCCB) exemplifies the key strengths of integrating of a key strength of community-based participatory research. .  CBPR is an approach to research in which members of the community work as equal partners with academic and/or professional researchers to identify and develop solutions to problems, in order to improve community health and well-being.  This relationship ensures that research questions and procedures reflect the needs and priorities of the communities themselves (Minkler & Wallerstein, 2003). In a CBPR project, members of the community are involved in every step of the process, from formulating research questions to developing and testing interventions. The CBPR approach is especially effective when integrated with critical consciousness theory (Freire 1970) , which enables people to recognize how oppressive social structures contribute to health inequality and to develop ways to overcome those oppressive contributing factors. Two important aspects of CBPR are that it integrates local and scientific knowledge and that it employs community capacity building strategies.

CBPR Relies On Local Expertise To Identify Problems

Much public health research aims to develop interventions or programs to reduce health inequality. Researchers usually rely on scientific knowledge to identify groups or places with high rates of disease or low access to care, and they design studies to explore the best ways to reduce disease risk or increase care delivery. However, this top-down approach carries risks. If researchers do not know how communities actually experience problems, they can end up recommending ineffective solutions. CBPR can prevent this because it recognizes the importance of experiential as well as scientific knowledge; that is, it enables community members to share relevant experiences with researchers (Pinto, Spector & Valera 2011).

CBPR research includes the development of community collaborative boards (CCB) composed of service providers and consumers, agency representatives, interested community members and researchers (Pinto et al. 2011). With a CCB, direct dialogue between board members and researchers can shrink social gaps between communities and academia, maximize community participation in research and produce research that reflects community priorities (Pinto 2009). For example, the NCCB and its work began with focus groups in which members of the community met with Dr. Windsor and identified lack of substance abuse treatment services, drug-trafficking violence and police corruption as high-priority issues for them (Windsor  & Murugan 2012; Windsor 2013).

CBPR Develops Community Capacity To Create And Implement Solutions

One critical principle of CBPR is that academic and community partners must learn from each other, which leads to another critical principle: That the research project must include community capacity building (Israel et al. 2003).  In other words, researchers learn from community members about how health disparities are experienced and about what issues are local priorities. In turn, researchers must be committed to training community members in research methods (Wallerstein & Duran 2006).  These exchanges of expertise can help community members and researchers better understand each other’s perspectives, thereby increasing community trust of research institutions and the research process. It can also ensure true collaboration in which community members share roles and responsibilities with researchers for tasks such as recruiting participants, collecting data, conducting interviews, supervising staff, analyzing data, and writing and presenting research results (Pinto 2009).

In the case of the NCCB, all board members received training in CBPR principles, critical consciousness theory, research methods, intervention development, specific outcomes (i.e., substance abuse treatment, HIV risk reduction) and grant writing and funding.  The NCCB worked as a full board and in subcommittees to develop an intervention to reduce substance use, related risk behavior and reoffending among people returning from incarceration to Newark communities. NCCB members with appropriate training and credentials served as group-session facilitators when the intervention was piloted.  Some individuals who completed the intervention later became members of the NCCB.

CBPR Principles

  1. CBPR recognizes community as a unit of identity
  2. CBPR builds on strengths and resources within the community
  3. CBPR promotes collaborative and equitable partnerships in all research phases and involves an empowering and power-sharing process
  4. CBPR facilitates co-learning and capacity building among all partners
  5. CBPR for health focuses on problems of relevance to the local community using an ecological approach that attends to multiple determinants of health and disease
  6. CBPR balances research and action for the mutual benefit of all partners
  7. CBPR disseminates findings and knowledge gained to the broader community and involves all partners in the dissemination process
  8. CBPR promotes a long-term process and commitment to sustainability



  1. Freire, P. (1976). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, NY: The Continuum Publishing Company.
  2. Israel, B.A., Schulz, A.J., Parker, E.A., Becker, A.B., Allen, A.J. & Guzman, R. (2003). Critical issues in developing and following community based participatory research principles. In M. Minkler & N. Wallerstein (Eds.), Community based participatory research for health (pp. 53-76). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  3. Minkler, M.  & Wallerstein, N.  (2003). Community based participatory research for health (pp. 53-76). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 
  4. Pinto, R. M. (2009). Community perspectives on factors that influence collaboration in public health research. Health Education & Behavior, 36, 930 – 947.
  5. Pinto, R. M., Spector, A. Y., & Valera, P. A. (2011). Exploring group dynamics for integrating scientific and experiential knowledge in Community Advisory Boards for HIV research. AIDS Care, 23, 1006-1013.
  6. Wallerstein, N.B.  & Duran, B.  2006. Using community-based participatory research to address health disparities.  Health Promotion Practice, 7(3), 312-323.
  7. Windsor L.C., & Murugan V. (2012). From the individual to the community: Perspectives about substance abuse services. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 12(4), 412-433.
  8. Windsor L.C. (2013). Using concept mapping for community-based participatory research: Paving the way for community-based health interventions for oppressed populations. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 7(3), 274-293.