Asking members of a community what they need, then partnering to achieve those goals, is the aim of community-based participatory research.

A program using that research approach in the Micronesian Islander community of Oregon was successful, leading to two additional grants to expand that work.

The team includes Principal Investigator Connie Nguyen-Truong, PhD, of the WSU College of Nursing Vancouver, who specializes in community-based participatory research. It also includes Principal Investigator Jacqueline Leung, JD, who’s board chair of the Micronesian Islander Community Organization, a certified community health worker and a Salem, Oregon city councilwoman. The third member is Kapiolani Micky, a program coordinator/community health worker at the Micronesian Islander Community Organization. They received a $125,000 grant from the Health & Education Impact Partnerships (Northwest Health Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Care Oregon, and Oregon Community Foundation) and a $20,000 grant from the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon Communities United Fund (Coulter Foundation) to support the next phase of their work.

In the first project the team worked with existing data and parent leaders in the Micronesian Islander community to identify specific needs, barriers, goals and strategies. Those include increasing the number of Micronesian Islander women who receive prenatal care during early pregnancy and increasing the number of children who attend preschool. The team has two articles on the program accepted for publication in the Asian/Pacific Islander Nursing Journal.

Now the team, through the Micronesian Islander Community Organization-WSU partnership, will identify up to two dozen parent leaders to work with in leadership, research and civic-engagement skills so the parent leaders can in turn mobilize their community.

Short-term, the strategy could help connect members of the community to existing resources and services. It is also expected to result in the creation of new parent clubs and interest groups in schools to provide mutual support. Longer term, it could result in more members of the Micronesian Islander community serving on boards and commissions, testifying on public policy, and taking leadership roles outside the community.

That community “continues to be invisible” because it’s aggregated by the Census under the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander and Asian population group, Nguyen-Truong said. Oregon is thought to have one of the largest concentrations of migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau on the U.S. mainland.

“We would like to expand future work in Washington and nationally,” said Nguyen-Truong, an assistant professor at the WSU College of Nursing.

Community-based participatory research requires building rapport and trust, she added. The process is mutually beneficial, however, with the community and the research team learning from each other.

“We’re building human capital and leveraging resources to help empower the community,” Nguyen-Truong said. “That is uplifting. That’s what we want through community-based participatory research.”