Workgroup Enhancing Community Advocacy and Research Engagement (WE-CARE)
The WE-CARE program is a cross collaboration of multiple stakeholders who serve as a Workgroup Enhancing Community Advocacy and Research Engagement. Our team works to improve health outcomes among minority populations by increasing minority enrollment and participation in research and building trust and mutual respect between the community and researchers.
Mission and Objectives
To advocate for and oversee clinical and translational research activities within various minority and medically underserved communities in the Tampa Bay area. More specifically to increase community interest in research participation and promote community ownership of research studies that lead to empowerment of community members to create sustainable, positive health outcomes.
Objective I: Empower underrepresented communities
Objective II: Provide oversight, protection, and advocacy for community participants involved in research
Objective III: Create and enhance clinical research opportunities for underrepresented communities
Objective IV: Enhance and expand trust between academic and clinical institutions and the community
Objective V: Strengthen the relationship between researchers and the community
By connecting community members with academic research at USF, WE-CARE hopes to address underlying disparities that lead to reduced health outcomes for underrepresented minorities.
The long-term goal of the WE-CARE program is to replicate this model at other major academic institutions and build a network of research outcomes and date that can be synthesized through a data coordinating center - thus maximizing health equity research and improving health for all.
Improving health outcomes for all and bridging the gap in health equity requires a concerted effort among all major stakeholders. To do this effectively WE-CARE uses a 360-degree community engagement model that maximizes the efforts of all involved.
Some major components of our program are:
- Advisory Board - established to advocate for and oversee research activities within various minority and medically underserved communities and sustain the WE-CARE program through oversight of all major activities and building partnerships locally and nationally. The Advisory Board serves to: 1) Strengthen the relationship of the research institutions with the community; 2) Provide oversight, protection, and advocacy of community participants involved in clinical and translational research activities performed by academic and clinical institutions; 3) Create and enhance clinical trial opportunities for underrepresented communities; 4) Empower underrepresented communities with decision-making opportunities concerning research activities that involve their members; and 5) Enhance and expand trust between academic and clinical institutions and the communities that they serve.
- Community-led Research Review Committee (RRC) - an extension of the Advisory Board consisting of 5-7 community members that serve as gate keepers to the community at large. The committee periodically convenes to hear presentations from researchers regarding study design, goals, and benefits, and lend a community perspective to ongoing research by bringing considerations such as culture, equality and language used to the researcher’s attention. To achieve the specific aim of connecting community members to researchers, the RRC interfaces directly with researchers to assist and augment the researchers’ efforts to recruit research participants from local communities. Through a defined process, researchers submit information about their proposed research for the RRC to review. After this initial review, researchers are invited to present their intended research proposal to and answer questions from the RRC. Guidelines and training are provided to the RRC with the goal of assisting researchers’ efforts to enhance enrollment of participants into their various research programs. Our current committee includes community members, nonprofit leaders, and national public health leaders. They help assess the merit of the research before WE-CARE promotes the studies to its minority community partners, and provides insights to the Advisory Board regarding best practices for researchers
- Community Network of faith based and community based organizations and “community ambassadors” who assist with outreach. This group helps raise awareness about the value and benefit of participating in research and assists with disseminating information about current research studies and clinical trials seeking minority participants. They also work to help guide the WE-CARE Advisory Board on how best to address barriers to participation in research.
- Researcher Network consisting of clinical and basic science researchers, division chiefs, clinical faculty, and key research administrators within the University of South Florida, Moffitt Cancer Center, and the James A Haley VA Hospital. This group participates in community matchmaking events – providing input on the research process and benefit to community members – and helps promote the benefits of the WE-CARE program among research colleagues.
- Community Engagement through partnerships with national programs such as 50 Hoops, who coordinate community advocacy matchmaking events that serve as forums for community members, researchers, clinicians and local leaders to discuss health equity topics and exchange ideas and solutions.
WE-CARE is a continuation of the work of The Center for Equal Health (CEH). CEH was a partnership between the University of South Florida (USF), the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, and the Tampa Bay community developed in 2009 through a P20 grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). CEH worked to address cancer-related health disparities that impact minority and underserved populations of Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties.
The Community Engagement and Outreach Core (CEOC) was one of five cores that made up CEH. Its purpose was to partner with the community through awareness and outreach activities in an effort to reduce cancer-related health disparities in the Tampa Bay area. One of the CEOC’s primary goals was to increase community interest in research participation and promote community ownership of research studies that lead to empowerment of community members to create sustainable, positive health outcomes.
In 2014 state appropriations enabled the CEH to become a state-wide institute – the Florida Health Equity Research Institute. At that same time WE-CARE was created to continue the mission of the community engagement and outreach core, though with a mission not specifically focused on cancer but for health more broadly. In 2015 WE-CARE partnered with 50 Hoops, and in April hosted the first Community Advocacy Matchmaking event.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead
The success of WE-CARE is made possible through the support from and collaboration with various partners. We and the community thank you for helping to achieve health equity!