About Community Engaged Research and CEAL

People sitting in a room on chairs, smiling.Community-engaged approaches effectively address health care disparities and provide trustworthy, science-based information essential for all communities to thrive. The NIH Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) partners with community organizations to carry out research that improves the health of communities.

CEAL teams work with community members and community organizations (such as faith communities, nonprofits, community centers, schools, and businesses) to make sure that research studies consider and include the specific needs and voices of the communities of focus.

Institutes across NIH provide national research leadership and expertise to CEAL teams.

CEAL is available for support in identifying experts for national or state-level speaking engagement activities. Apply to find out more.

What is community-engaged research?

Community-engaged research includes local people in the research process, especially people who could benefit from or be affected by the research. Research teams and communities work together as equal partners to create and carry out studies, analyze data, and share findings.

Community representatives bring their lived experiences, needs, and strengths to these studies to:

  • Craft research questions and inform study details.
  • Collect research data using community-informed strategies to connect with participants and get meaningful data.
  • Advise on policies and decisions related to safe and effective research conduct.
  • Co-create interventions or programs that fit well within the community.
  • Design appropriate materials and messages tailored for specific cultures and languages.
  • Analyze and report data in a way that the community can understand while acknowledging their strengths and challenges.

When deep connections and collaboration exist between researchers and communities, the research reflects a community’s strengths, beliefs, customs, needs, and cultural sensitivities.

What are the benefits of community-engaged research?

Community-engaged research can:

  • Address health disparities by designing research to address the needs of at-risk communities. Including people with different backgrounds and experiences is important in research studies to ensure the results reflect people’s diversity.
  • Build trust in science by including people from the community as equal partners in research projects from the start. This ensures that everyone clearly understands what is being studied, how the study is being handled, and what the findings mean.
  • Improve health knowledge by working with trusted messengers, such as family doctors and pastors, who listen to the questions, worries, and fears that people share and provide accurate information to address these issues.

Why does research need to include people of different backgrounds and lived experiences?

A person’s culture, family history, job, and where and how they live are just some of the things that can affect how well a medicine, treatment, or other health intervention will work for them.

Treatments must be proven safe and effective for all, so research studies must include people from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences.

Why do some communities mistrust research?

Some research studies in the past took advantage of people, putting them at risk and even costing them their lives. Racial bias among health care providers and institutions remains an issue, and continued efforts are needed to overcome inequities in our health care system.

It is common for people to doubt researchers and prescription medications and to avoid volunteering for research studies, even if the studies may directly benefit their lives. Today, research studies have safeguards to guarantee safety and protect participants’ rights.

What is CEAL doing to address health disparities and increase diversity in research studies?

To guarantee that all communities benefit from scientific advances, research must include people with various lived experiences and living conditions, as well as characteristics like race and ethnicity, age, sex, and sexual orientation. Through its programs, CEAL supports research teams, programs, institutions, and other entities performing community-engaged research with groups who experience health disparities.

CEAL is aligned with the conceptual model for community engagement published by the National Academy of Medicine.

U.S. map with symbols depicting states where CEAL programs and/or partners are present.
;The rounded square represents CEAL Regional Research Teams in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia), Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, and Texas;The circle represents the NCPCR program partners in Georgia and Oregon; The square represents the AI/AN-NHPI Enrichment Initiative in Arkansas, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Federated States of Micronesia; The hexagon represents the MH-CIP research coalitions in Georgia, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee; The 5-pointed star represents the ACE-CH program in Alaska, California, and Colorado; The triangle represents the HKMRS pilot located in Colorado, District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, Missouri, and Texas; The diamond represents the IMPROVE-CIP research coalitions in Arizona, Nebraska, and Texas.; The 4-pointed star represents the CEACR program partners located in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Visit ceal.nih.gov to learn more about CEAL’s program protocol, leadership, and governance.

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Last updated June 2024

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