Lay of the Land

Montana is a unique state with a vibrant constellation of rural communities, Native American tribes, small towns and residents with family trees that extend back for generations.

Local knowledge runs deep throughout the state, and Montanans are the stewards of a vast reservoir of collective wisdom. This is especially true in rural and Native communities, which house their own cultural, linguistic and investigative traditions.

MT INBRE supports investigators interested in mitigating health disparities in Montana by fostering and enhancing tribal and rural community partnerships and collaborations. We believe that sustainable community collaborations are best served by employing Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) methods that consider and embrace the relevant cultural, linguistic, group identity, and health needs as defined by the community members, themselves.

CBPR approaches typically include:

  • Recognizing the community as a unit of identity
  • Building on the strengths and resources of the community
  • Promoting co-learning among research partners
  • Achieving a balance between research and action that mutually benefits both scientist and community
  • Emphasizing the relevance of community-defined problems
  • Employing a cyclical and iterative process to develop and maintain community/research partnerships
  • Disseminating knowledge gained from the CBPR project to and by all involved partners
  • Requiring long-term commitment on the part of all partners

Israel BA, et all. Critical issues in developing and following community-based participatory research principles. In: Community-based Participatory Research for Health: Jossey-Bass; 2003. pp. 53–76.

How MT INBRE approaches CBPR projects

To help encourage the use of CBPR methodology in Montana, the MT INBRE Community Engagement Core (CEC) draws on the expertise of a team of community-academic partners who highly value the mutual goal of improved community health through engagement, dialogue and collective problem solving. We believe biomedical research is enriched, enhanced and made more effective through equitable and participatory modes of investigation. We value the unique strengths and perspectives that community partners lend to research and recognize how those projects are made stronger and more viable through CBPR. When community members are equitably involved all aspects of the research process and feel a sense of ownership over methods, decisions and outcomes, the end result is a side-by-side collaboration in which both researchers and community members realize greater benefits and uncover more meaningful discoveries.

Community members know which health concerns are most important to their communities and what strategies for addressing them may be most effective. The CEC utilizes a cyclical methodological model that entails continual leadership, input, and feedback from community members that is based on the Native or rural community being an equitable partner in the research.