Sustaining Community-University Partnerships: Lessons learned from a participatory research project with elderly Chinese

XinQi Dong, E-Shien Chang, Melissa Simon, Esther Wong


The strength of community-engaged research has been well documented in public health literature. It is recognised as a useful approach for eliminating health disparities by linking research and practice. While the framework of community-engaged research encompasses a broad range of research collaborations, community-based participatory research (CBPR) places most emphasis on involving the community as a full, equitable partner throughout the collaboration. Despite growing interest in and demand for community-university partnerships, less attention is given to the issue of partnership sustainability. The purpose of this article is to present the challenges faced in sustaining a community-university partnership when conducting a CBPR project with an elderly Chinese population in Chicago’s Chinatown. Lessons and strategies learned from the cultural and linguistic complexities of the Chinese community are also detailed. In addition, based on a well-accepted sustainability conceptual framework, we reflect on the initial stage, mid-term actions and long-term goals of developing partnership sustainability. Working with the Chinese community required trust and respect for its unique cultural values and diversity. The cultural, social and environmental contexts within which the partnership operated served as critical forces for long-term sustainability: a culturally sensitive approach is instrumental in sustaining community-university partnership. Also discussed are the significant implications for evidence-based, impact-driven partnerships to develop culturally appropriate strategies to meet the needs of diverse populations.

Community-based participatory research, community health partnerships, health promotion, Chinese Americans, ageing

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