In partnership with the Galveston Island Community Research Advisory Committee, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that African-Americans face unique barriers in reaching good health.

Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the purpose of the study was to find ways to help community members and researchers better understand each other.

Karen Jaynes Williams, an assistant professor in UTMB’s department of obstetrics and gynecology, and John M. Cooks, chairman of the GICRAC, are the study’s principal investigators. They said the long-term goal of the work is to improve understanding between community members and university researchers, helping both to understand how local knowledge can build better research.

“We performed community listening tours led by a team of 14 community-based facilitators, where we interviewed a cross section of the African-American community in the city of Galveston,” Williams said.

During the community tours, researchers asked African-American participants to “define health, healthy, unhealthy and the barriers from unhealthy to healthy.” Many participants defined healthy as “being well informed, taking good care of your body, developing spirituality and having good relationships within the community and family.”

Barriers to health revealed by the participants included “the community itself, poverty, nutrition, self and family.” Regardless of the age or socioeconomic category of the participants, all voiced concern with the lack of affordable health care and emphasized the importance of spirituality to health.

The Community-University Partnership hopes to use this information to shape future community interactions with service providers and other researchers.

The GICRAC is a group of community leaders working to promote the health and well-being of African-Americans in Galveston County. The committee works primarily with researchers who use community-based participatory approaches, recognizing that persons most affected by a health problem often possess critical information about solving the problem.