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Building Strong Research Partnerships Between Public Health and Researchers: A VA Case Study

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We are in a new era of partner-based implementation research, and we need clear strategies for how to navigate this new era. Drawing on principles from community-based participatory research, the Clinical Public Health group of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the HIV/Hepatitis Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (HHQUERI) forged a longstanding partnership that has improved the care of Veterans with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C Virus. An exemplar HIV testing project epitomizes this partnership and is discussed in terms of the lessons learned as a result of our high level of collaboration around design, analysis, implementation, and dissemination across projects over the past several years. Lessons learned through this partnered testing program involve respecting different time horizons among the partners, identifying relevant research questions for both parties, designing flexible studies, engaging all partners throughout the research, and placing an emphasis on relationship building at all times. These lessons and strategies can benefit others conducting partner-based research both within the Veterans Health Administration (VA) and in other integrated healthcare systems.

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