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Innovation & improvement in public health via community engagement & research. Community Engagement Program

Program Services

    • Dissemination and Implementation (D&I) Expertise

      Our team specializes in both D&I as well as community-based participatory research and offers consultation and trainings to researchers and community stakeholders interested in learning more about these methods.

    • Strategic Science Seminars

      These seminars will help investigators learn how to ask the right questions for T4 policy- and program-related decisions, improving and enhancing research projects that can translate discovery into public health policy and program implementation that improves outcomes and reduces disparities. The program also sponsors and facilitates a Dissemination and Implementation Science Researcher Interest Group that meets regularly to explore research in implementation and identify gap areas where research could focus.

  • Pilot Grants

    Harvard Catalyst offers funding opportunities through the Community Engagement program for research focused on program priority areas and performed in collaboration with community stakeholders.

    • Community Engagement Studios

      The Community Engagement program works with individual researchers and teams to enhance research projects by engaging stakeholders with unique expertise and experience. These community engagement studios provide researchers with a real-time, in-person opportunity to share their research concepts and goals with patients, families, caregivers, advocates, clinicians, policymakers, and other stakeholders, and to receive direct feedback and guidance via a facilitated conversation. At present, studios are offered exclusively to researchers seeking pilot funding through Harvard Catalyst as part of the larger application process.

    • Project Management

      In coordination with the Harvard Catalyst Translational Innovator, Community Engagement staff provide ongoing project management support to pilot funding recipients, including monthly one-on-one meetings with research teams to identify challenges & opportunities and offer assistance as needed. Program staff convene quarterly meetings of all recipients to share best practices and report on progress, including a final report-back to the community on research findings and possible implications.

Program Overview

The Harvard Catalyst Community Engagement Program, formerly the Population Health Research Program (PHRP), seeks to increase the pace of adoption of evidence-based programs and policies to promote health, prevent disease, and eliminate disparities. In alignment with community-identified needs and interests, this goal will be met through a combination of implementation science, policy research, and community partnerships. The program aims to create mechanisms for high-quality engagement with community and policy stakeholders, working collaboratively with partners to identify opportunities for accelerating population-level outcomes while providing robust research and training opportunities in community translation and increasing the pipeline of well-trained individuals interested in this field.

The program's Community Advisory Board plays a critical role in representing community perspectives to guide program activity.

Program Highlights

  • Improving Child Health
    The Community Engagement Program helps to advance research that promotes evidence-based practices and policies around achieving healthy weight in children. To do this, we utilize dissemination and implementation science, while enhancing collaboration between academia and community. Our symposium, which coincided with World Child Health Day on October 1, 2018, brought together approximately 100 academic, clinical, educational, policy, and community stakeholders to share innovative models and ideas on supporting healthy child weight.
  • Promoting Cancer Screening and Prevention
    Working closely with our hospital and community partners, we identify ways to leverage quality metrics and patient/parent/provider education to increase cancer screening, promote healthy behavior linked to cancer prevention, and encourage cancer-related vaccination.
  • Identifying and Addressing Emerging Public Health Priorities
    We work collaboratively with community and policy stakeholders, as well as partners, to identify the most pressing public health priorities facing residents of Boston and the broader Commonwealth. Through engagement with researchers and teams, we help define specific research questions that can be translated into effective evidence-based public health policy and programmatic solutions.

Program History

  • Evaluating the Massachusetts Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund
    The Massachusetts Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund (PWTF) was a first-in-the-nation, $60 million investment in nine grantee partnerships throughout the Commonwealth to address four priority health conditions: pediatric asthma, hypertension, tobacco use, and falls in older adults. Harvard Catalyst was selected to conduct a legislatively-mandated evaluation of this effort, resulting in a two-part mixed methods evaluation of the program that identified several positive outcomes with significant potential for further public health improvements.
  • The HUD Smoke-Free Housing Initiative
    In November 2015, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a rule that all public housing authorities must provide a smoke-free environment for their residents. In December 2015, the Harvard Catalyst Population Health Research Program (now the Community Engagement Program) sponsored a gathering of 35 experts from around the country to discuss how to best approach and implement the proposed plan. After an 18-month implementation period, this rule went into full effect on July 31, 2018, and a number of significant research proposals have been generated as a result of this work.
  • CITI Training for Community-Engaged Research
    Harvard Catalyst worked closely with the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) program to develop three Community-Engaged Research (CEnR) modules for investigators, staff, and students who conduct research both in the United States and internationally. These modules, which are the only ones currently-available relevant to CEnR, were designed to help researchers better understand how to engage and work with communities throughout the research process. To date, there have been over 19,000 modules completed by over 10,000 unique users.
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