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The UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention has been recognized for its dedication to community-based participatory research by a national committee of community experts.

The Prevention Research Center (PRC) program National Community Committee selected 11 PRCs to receive the Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) Best Practice Award at the PRC Directors’ meeting in Atlanta last month.

HPDP received the award for its HOPE projects, a series of projects focused on lowering obesity and improving overall health and socioeconomic status of women in eastern North Carolina that has spanned nearly 18 years.  The projects use HOPE Circles, small groups of women led by a trained community member, to help empower women to eat healthy foods, exercise more and achieve financial goals.

The HOPE projects have used community-based participatory research methods throughout their process. A Community Action Council (CAC) made up of women in Sampson, Duplin, Lenoir and Robeson counties advises researchers for each project. The members of the CAC are community leaders who can help design the project to best fit the needs of the areas participating in the projects.

“HOPE Works is unique in the way that it touches women where they are supports them to make changes in their lives,” said Katie Barnes, Research Assistant for the HOPE Works Project.  “Everyone needs a HOPE Circle!”

Barnes’ experience with the HOPE projects is an ideal example of community partners becoming part of the research team. She began her participation in the project as a participant when she worked in a textile mill. She has increased her involvement over the years and now works full-time with the HOPE projects.  She is also the chair-elect of the National Community Committee.

The current HPDP Core Research Project, Seeds of HOPE, evaluates the implementation of HOPE Circles in organizations such as American Indian and African American churches, community-based organizations, and tribal councils.  The intervention itself is being revised to increase the duration of the Circle meetings to 12 months, and to add sessions that will enhance women’s skill sets for financial literacy, micro enterprise development, and healthy behaviors.

A total of 16 PRCs applied for the CBPR Best Practice Award.  Twenty-five of the 37 PRCs received a Community Partnership Engagement Award from the NCC in 2010 and were eligible for the Best Practice Award. This is the first year the NCC has presented these awards.

The PRC program is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is an interdependent network of community, academic, and public health partners to conduct prevention research and promote the wide use of practices proven to promote good health. Research centers apply be part of the PRC program every five years. HPDP was one of the first three PRCs funded in 1986 and has maintained PRC status since then.
Other PRCs recognized for their community-based participatory research include:

  • Emory University Prevention Research Center
  • Morehouse School of Medicine Prevention Research Center
  • San Diego Prevention Research Center
  • UCLA/RAND Center for Adolescent Health Promotion
  • University of Arizona Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention and Health Promotion
  • University of Maryland Prevention Research Center
  • University of Rochester National Center for Deaf Health Research
  • University of  South Carolina Prevention Research Center
  • University of Washington Health Promotion Research Center
  • West Virginia Prevention Research Center
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