Leonore Okwara, MPH, is Founder and CEO of Public Health Research Consulting. She joins me to discuss a more effective and respectful approach to healthcare research.

Through her consulting business, Leonore provides community engagement and program management guidance, development, and training to newly funded researchers, program managers, research coordinators, and research assistants who work in the community. Leonore is also the host of Public Health Culture, a podcast highlighting public health research and initiatives.

Highlights include:

6:03 – LO: “CBPR involves a community from research design to dissemination. So they’re involved in every part of the research process. And what this means is that the researchers are coming in with their research expertise and teaching the community about the research process. And then the community is coming in with their expertise, which is lived experiences and teaching the researcher about that.

7:12 – LO: “And with Black people, especially, we know about the Tuskegee syphilis study and Henrietta Lacks but there are so many more research studies and situations that show the detriment to the Black community made by researchers. And this is something that is passed down from generation to generation. And so when you have a family, or you have a group of people, who don’t trust certain institutions, then it’s hard to then come in and say, ‘Hi, I’m here to recruit for a research study’ when you haven’t addressed that mistrust.”

10:04 – LO: “When you’re a researcher, you’re doing your due diligence, you’re figuring out what the gap in the research is and what will be most impactful for the community because you go in with the intent of improving health outcomes. So the intent is good but going about that needs more effort. And so a lot of them don’t know how to do that. They rely on the needs assessment data that they’ve collected, as well as the literature review and just a little bit of research that they’ve done outside of that. And they feel like they understand the community and it’s so much more than that. So oftentimes they’re surprised, you know, when you go and recruit and you don’t have the outcome, it’s not well-received, and you’re not meeting those recruitment goals. It’s hard. They don’t understand why.”

12:48 – LO: “So I have been on so many different research teams and for me, I’m new to the research team. I’m new to the community. So how do I show myself to be trustworthy? Well, I show up. If they have a church event, I’m there. If they need someone to pass out clothing to children in the community, I show up. And that’s the way that I show myself to be trustworthy is by showing my face so they know who I am. So when I do have an ask of them, they won’t look at me like, you’re just coming to collect my information and then you’re going to leave because that happens all the time. So the trust not only needs to be established from the beginning in the beginning. It also needs to happen when the work is over. So the community expects you to continue doing those things you did from the beginning.”

18:13 – LO: “I think building trust and capacity-building should be top priorities for researchers. A lot of times researchers, we think about the accolades and the grants we can get, you know, from this work or the publications. But the capacity-building is really important because it empowers the community by equipping them with tools for sustainability.”

Leading with Health is hosted by Jennifer Michelle. Jennifer has a Master’s in Public Health and Epidemiology and is a former EMT. As President of Michelle Marketing Strategies, Jennifer specializes in healthcare marketing. She is on a mission to create a healthcare system that actually cares about the patients and the providers.