Community partnered research and engagement strategies are gaining recognition as innovative approaches to improving healthcare systems and reducing health disparities in underserved communities. These strategies may have particular relevance for mental health interventions in low income, minority communities in which there often is great stigma and silence surrounding conditions such as depression and difficulty in implementing improved access and quality of care. At the same time, there is a relative dearth of evidence on the effectiveness of specific community engagement interventions and on the design, process, and context of these interventions necessary for understanding their implementation and generalizability.
This paper evaluates one of a number of community engagement strategies employed in the Community Partners in Care (CPIC) study, the first randomized controlled trial of the role of community engagement in adapting and implementing evidence-based depression care. We specifically describe the unique goals and features of a community engagement “kickoff” conference as used in CPIC and provide evidence on the effectiveness of this type of intervention by analyzing its impact on: 1) stimulating a dialogue, sense of collective efficacy, and opportunities for learning and networking to address depression and depression care in the community, 2) activating interest and participation in CPIC’s randomized trial of two different ways to implement evidence-based quality improvement (QI) programs for depression across diverse community agencies, and 3) introducing evidence-based toolkits and collaborative care models to potential participants in both intervention conditions and other community members.
We evaluated the effectiveness of the conference through a community-partnered process in which both community and academic project members were involved in study design, data collection and analysis. Data sources include participant conference evaluation forms (n=187 over two conferences; response rate 59%) and qualitative observation field notes of each conference session. Mixed methods for the analysis consist of descriptive statistics of conference evaluation form ratings, as well as thematic analysis of evaluation form write-in comments and qualitative observation notes. Results indicate the effectiveness of this type of event for each of the three main goals, and provide insights into intervention implementation and use of similar community engagement strategies for other studies.