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Surveying for Environmental Health Justice: Community Organizing Applications of Community-Based Participatory Research


Although the benefits of community-based participatory research (CBPR) for community and university partners have been well documented, these have mostly focused on disseminating research findings. However, how CBPR can function as a useful community organizing tool remains understudied. We present the CBPR process of an environmental health survey conducted by a team of community organizers and academic researchers in Richmond, CA, to describe how survey research can be aligned with community organizing principles and methods. Through a case study of our Richmond health survey that documented and quantified neighborhood concerns and health problems, we describe and analyze three steps through which community organizing and CBPR align: community-driven hypothesis generation and testing, how community surveyors are trained and study participants are recruited, and how results are applied and disseminated to policy advocacy and community action. Our case study of surveying for environmental health justice demonstrates how CBPR can be used for community organizing by: (1) building community capacity in research methods, literacy, and numeracy through training community residents as surveyors and data analysis advisors; (2) supporting organizing goals with community-driven hypothesis generation and hypothesis testing; (3) using research findings to determine future issues to prioritize; and (4) developing strategic initiatives accordingly. We recommend ensuring adequate, funded time for CBPR partners to apply their research findings toward community organizing goals and strategic planning for future community organizing and research.

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