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Engaging Low-Income and Minority Communities in Prioritizing Community Health Benefits

There are a variety of competing health needs in communities, particularly in minority and low-income communities, which often have worse health outcomes than other communities. This project, a collaboration between the University of Michigan and Friends of Parkside, a non-profit on Detroit’s eastside, proposes a new approach to address health disparities by meaningfully engaging communities in decision-making to prioritize community health needs.
The literature shows that community engagement, improved health, and poverty reduction are all interconnected. This project will evaluate the use of a simulation exercise, CHAT (CHoosing All Together), to engage underserved, minority community members in setting priorities for community health benefit (CHB). Using CHAT, participants prioritize competing needs for limited resources. Specifically, this project will:

  • Build on and strengthen existing academic-community partnerships with non-profit healthcare organizations (HCO) and community leaders in three geographic areas in Michigan.
  • With partners, engage community members in determining CHB priorities.
  • Assess the impact of community engagement on participants, on HCO decision-making, and on motivating community entities to improve community health.

CHAT has been used in multiple other research projects, including the largest one in scope called Deliberative Engagement of Communities in Decisions about Resources (DECIDERS). Through this project, a longstanding Steering Committee was established including public health and community leaders representing minority and underserved communities throughout the state of Michigan. This committee is committed to providing ongoing guidance, advice, and support for this new project focused on community health benefit.

Although the US health system is evolving to focus more on community health and social determinants of health, there is little incentive for healthcare organizations (HCOs) to have ongoing collaborations with communities in order to prioritize and address community needs or to improve health equity. Engaging underserved and minority communities in setting health priorities could influence decisions made by HCOs and other entities, encourage HCOs to prioritize work on community identified needs, and encourage HCOs to be more inclusive and transparent in their decision-making and required investments in their communities.

Susan Dorr Goold, U-M Medical School
Zachary Rowe, Friends of Parkside
Karen Calhoun, Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR)
Jen Skillicorn, Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM)
Maryn Lewallen, Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM)