Supporting Partnerships to Improve Health Outcomes in St. Louis

May 3, 2016

The Community/University Health Research Partnership (CUHRP) Initiative was formed to help community organizations and academic researchers at Washington University and Saint Louis University work together to address some of the most critical health problems in St. Louis.

Overview: Listening to community concerns

The St. Louis Community/University Health Research Partnerships (CUHRP) Initiative was formed after a series of forums where community stakeholders voiced concerns about a lack of community and university research partnerships. Many community organizations felt that researchers too often ignored the community’s needs when conducting community-based research.

“CUHRP was born in response to community unhappiness. In regards to research, the community perceived that the universities were taking from the community and not giving back. CUHRP was formed to deliver joint university/community projects relevant to the community, in a way where the community had significant input.”

The response

In 2009, BJC HealthCare, Saint Louis University, and Washington University in St. Louis provided $1.5 million in research funding to start the CUHRP Initiative. The program was administered through the St. Louis Regional Health Commission.

The CUHRP Initiative was designed to stimulate stronger community/university research partnerships. To apply for the funding, each project needed at least two Principal Investigators—one from a community organization and one from Washington University or Saint Louis University. The goal was to create a dialogue between researchers and community organizations. To be more successful at conducting community-based research that would really benefit the St. Louis region.  CUHRP required projects to address a community concern while effectively answering a research question.

The review process

The proposal review process involved community members throughout to help determine which projects to fund. A panel with community and university reviewers conducted a scientific review of each proposal and gave each project a score. These were forwarded to a mostly community-based funding council that made the final funding decisions. The scientific review scores were part of their decision but not all of it. Some projects with a high scientific review score weren’t funded because community members didn’t believe addressed the most significant problems.

“We had community members at the table to make those decisions. That was exciting and really energized the process. The community members set the priority, not people from the outside. This is how research will be funded 20 years from now.”

In 2010, the CUHRP program funded seven one-year projects for approximately $100,000 each. Based on progress toward meeting specific project goals, five of the awardees also received a second year of funding in 2011 for up to $100,000.

Project summaries

After the projects were completed, the Institute for Public Health conducted semi-structured interviews with the Principal Investigators and key staff of each project. They also interviewed selected key informants with insight into CUHRP’s origins. The team then transcribed the interviews and identified themes. Every effort was made to remove identifying details from specific quotes so that interviewees’ cannot be identified. This process allowed interviewees to speak candidly during their interview. Any interviewee quoted in the report has been invited to review it for clarity and consistency.

Follow the links below for project summaries by Phil Horn, MSW, MPH, Washington University and Heather Jacobsen, MPH, ClearApple Health Writing.

Community/University Health Research Partnerships and Projects

Reproductive Life Plans: A Pilot Study

Principal Investigators: Kendra Copanas, Maternal, Child, & Family Health Coalition, and Pamela Xaverius, Saint Louis University
Funding Period: 2 years

Connecting Rarely Screened Women to Mammography via Mobile Vans and Navigators

Principal Investigators: Sherrill Jackson, Breakfast Club, Inc., and Mary Politi, Washington University
Funding Period: 2 years

KICKing Type 2 Diabetes

Principal Investigators: Joan McGinnis, St. Louis Diabetes Coalition, and Eric Armbrecht & Thomas Burroughs, Saint Louis University
Funding Period: 2 years

Integrating Injury Prevention Activities into a Home Visitation Program

Principal Investigators: Angela Recktenwald, Nurses for Newborns, and Nancy Weaver, Saint Louis University
Funding Period: 2 years

Nourishing an Urban Community II

Principal Investigators: Hannah Reinhart, Gateway Greening, and Susan Racette, Washington University
Funding Period: 2 years

Prevention of Sudden Infant Death: Assessing Appropriate Use of Language in Prevention Messages

Principal Investigators:  Lori Behrens, SIDS Resources, Inc., and James Kemp, Washington University
Funding Period: 1 year

Evaluation of a Peer Delivered Recovery Management Checkup Model Among Substance Abusing Women

Principal Investigators: William Hildebrandt,* Queen of Peace Center, Stephen Wernet,* Saint Louis University

*Principal Investigators not available for interviews

“I think the process was extraordinarily well-done and was not an easy task given the different perspectives of academic and community members. It was gratifying to see people from different backgrounds come together and really reach a strong consensus on every one of the proposals. It’s rare that I get to work closely with community members and it gave me a sense of hope that true collaboration is really possible if we work toward it. And I think that the final projects chosen were really strong ones.”