Building Trust Workshop at UMD: Addressing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

Giancarlo Pasquini, Social and Health Psychology


Racial and ethnic health disparities continue to persist in the United States highlighting the need for continued study of the causes and implications of these disparities. As research progresses towards understanding the complexities of health disparities, researchers have a responsibility to relay findings to communities that will benefit from newfound knowledge. This dissemination should extend beyond the discussion section in a published paper and should be direct to community members, especially if community members were participants in the study. The goal of my summer project was to develop skills to effectively communicate research findings to a community in Bronx, New York. With funding from CSISJP, I attended the Building Trust workshop at the University of Maryland (UMD) designed to teach researchers strategies to engage with communities to build trust between community members and researchers. These skills were applied as I planned a community forum event that will take place in the fall of 2018.

Summary of Building Trust workshop at UMD

The purpose of the Building Trust workshop at UMD was to teach researchers effective strategies for engaging minority communities both in the design and implementation of research projects. The workshop emphasized on the following seven areas, each playing an important role in the process of developing trust between researchers and community members.

  • Consider the history of injustice and ethical misconduct between researchers and minority communities that has contributed to feelings of mistrust today
  • Analyze case studies of ethically complex research and learn from past mistakes
  • Reflect on how personal attitudes and biases may influence the relationship between researcher and minority communities
  • Understand the importance of engaging with underrepresented communities
  • Develop strategies to conduct respectful recruitment of racial and ethnic minorities to participate in research
  • View the informed consent process as a conversation between researchers and participants to promote understanding
  • Develop strategies to build lasting relationships with community members to promote trust and improve retention in future studies

Community forum project in Bronx, NY

I have used the skills developed in the Building Trust workshop in the planning and development of a community forum event planned for the fall of 2018.  This community forum will be held in Bronx, New York and will include members of the research team and community members that both have and have not been participants in studies conducted by our team. The goal and purpose of this forum will be to share findings from a number of our team’s studies of stress, health, and aging that have relied on data collected from Bronx residents. The goal is to strengthen the relationship between the research team and community members to promote trust in research and encourage participation in future studies. A general outline describing the agenda of this forum is described here:

  • Present direct connections between scientific findings and practical information that might apply to community members’ understanding of stress in their daily lives.
  • Listen to and address attendees’ concerns about the research process. Potential concerns may be hesitation about participating in research studies, mistrust of researchers or specific institutions, and frustrating experiences among attendees that have participated in past studies.
  • Encourage participation in future studies, emphasizing that progress towards eliminating health disparities is possible with a collaborative relationship between researchers and community members.

Our team is also putting together a measure to assess attendees’ attitudes towards participating in scientific research that will be measured before and after the forum in an attempt to measure any changes in attitude among attendees after attending the forum. Our hope is that this event will be an effective setting for the dissemination of practical research findings while strengthening the relationship between researchers and community residents.

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