PCORI Contract Awards $2.1M To Downstate Health Sciences University and University Of Illinois Urban-Champaign For Inclusive Research Partnerships

By Office of Communications & Marketing | Nov 29, 2023

Study will focus on enhancing diversity in health research partnerships

Brooklyn, NY - A research team at the School of Public Health at Downstate Health Sciences University led by Thomas I. Mackie, Ph.D., MPH, Chair of Health Policy and Management, has secured a $2.1M award (Improving Research Partnership With Engagement Mapping: A Pilot Study to Advance Engagement Science | PCORI) from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to conduct a study to advance the meaningful engagement of communities underrepresented in research partnerships. The study will be co-led by Karen Tabb, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois Urban-Champaign. 

The “Engagement Mapping to Advance Meaningful Research Partnership Research Study” is a pilot study focused on empowering community partners to engage meaningfully in the preparation, implementation, translation, and dissemination of research. This study will pilot test “engagement mapping,” a new engagement approach that empowers these community partners to (1) identify barriers to research engagement, (2) co-design and implement responsive engagement methods, and (3) co-evaluate and disseminate research findings on the effectiveness of these methods. The pilot study will test the feasibility of this approach and identify engagement methods that align with the values and needs of community partners underrepresented in research partnerships. The pilot study will test engagement mapping across four Advisory Councils located at Postpartum Support International and the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School. The assembled team will also conduct a scoping review with patient co-investigators to develop evidence-based and consensus-driven guidelines for engagement methods that effectively address the needs of individuals from communities underrepresented in research partnerships.

“True progress in advancing mental health equity will require the active participation of individuals from the communities most affected by mental healthcare disparities, both as researchers and as research partners,” said Dr. Mackie. “This project will allow us to pilot a novel approach to facilitate partnership with individuals from communities who are far too often not meaningfully engaged in research. We will comprehensively review and identify promising practices for research engagement and then initiate a pilot study to test the feasibility and acceptability of Engagement Mapping and the mixed methods evaluation plan proposed.”

The proposal was chosen in response to a PCORI funding announcement aimed at creating an evidence base for developing measures and methods that enhance meaningful engagement in comparative clinical effectiveness research. Recent years have seen increased knowledge about participatory research involving key stakeholders like patients, caregivers, and clinicians as research partners. However, there’s a lack of systematic study on the most effective engagement techniques and a significant gap in evidence regarding the selection of engagement methods tailored for individuals underrepresented in research partnerships, such as communities affected by mental healthcare disparities.

“This study was selected for PCORI funding for its potential to strengthen patient-centered and stakeholder-driven comparative clinical effectiveness research by providing evidence about specific engagement methods and measures that promote representative engagement of patients and other stakeholders in research,” said PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook, M.D., MPH. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with Downstate Health Sciences University to share the results.”

Dr. Mackie’s award has been approved pending the completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and the issuance of a formal award contract. Read the full PCORI press release here.


About Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions.

About SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn is one of four academic health centers (AMCs) in The State University of New York (SUNY) 64-campus system and the only SUNY AMC in New York City dedicated to health education, research, and patient care for the borough’s 2.7 million residents. Its flagship hospital, University Hospital at Downstate (UHD), is a teaching hospital and benefits from the expertise of Downstate’s exceptional medical school and world-class academic center research facilities. With a staff of over 800 physicians representing 53 specialties and subspecialties, Downstate offers comprehensive healthcare services to the community.

UHD provides high-risk neonatal and infant services, pediatric nephrology, and dialysis for kidney diseases and is the only kidney transplantation program in Brooklyn. Beyond its clinical expertise, Downstate houses a range of esteemed educational institutions, including its College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health Professions, Graduate Studies, and School of Public Health. Downstate fosters innovation through its multifaceted biotechnology initiative, the Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT, which support early-stage and more mature biotech companies.