CRUSADA hosted community fair, bridging the community-science gap

The Center for Research on US Latin, HIV/AIDS, and Drug Abuse (CRUSADA) at Florida International University (FIU) recently hosted a community fair at the Homestead Everglades Community Center. The fair, led by Dr. Gira J. Ravelo, research assistant professor at CRUSADA, was an attempt to use audience appropriate methods to disseminate local research findings to the community while simultaneously creating positive everlasting partnerships. The findings delivered were from community based participatory research (CBPR) conducted by CRUSADA in the Homestead area among Latino seasonal farm workers.

CRUSADA at community fair“Conducting research in a community requires collaboration, partnerships, participation, and most of all, trust between community leaders, members, and researchers. However, the continuous criticism from communities is that research findings are rarely, if ever, communicated back to participants and their communities,” said Ravelo. “Our goal for the fair was to reconnect with the participants of our study and also share with them clear, meaningful, and concise finding that are appropriate for lay populations.”

Without sharing findings, participants often feel their time and efforts are contributing to a research agenda that is detached from their own or will not meaningfully impact their communities. The result is the break-down of community-academic partnerships, distrust, and suspicion among community members towards researchers, making it difficult to conduct health promotion and disease prevention studies in communities.

CRUSADA took on the challenge by hosting a community family fair at the Everglades Community Center. The fair included local leaders, partners, and collaborators of CRUSADA.

In addition to the Everglades Center, members from nearby farm working communities were all invited to participate. The event was done in holiday theme with all you can eat food and drinks, live music, bonce houses, face paint, and balloon shapes for the children, as well as FIU/CRUSADA promotional items, prizes, and in the spirit of the holiday season, a live Santa Clause. In order to meet CRUSADA’s goal of research findings dissemination, and strengthening trust and relationships, CRUSADA placed science booths with posters from studies, completed in the local farm working community, displaying results in layman’s terms. CRUSADA Community Fair

The booths were manned by scientist and community leaders in a show of solidarity and partnerships. Scientists and community partners were able to communicate and elaborate findings and implications directly to the community, as well as introduce current studies. The results exceeded CRUSADA expectations; over 500 people attended, hundreds visited the CRUSADA science booth and spoke one on one with researchers and community leaders about research findings. The community responded with overwhelming gratitude to CRUSADA’s team for their willingness to invest so much into their communities. CRUSADA’s innovative community research findings dissemination method created positive impressions and relationships in a very difficult to reach community.

“This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” concluded Ravelo.