Community-Engaged Research

The skills and wisdom of both academic researchers and community stakeholders are necessary if research is to have an impact on public health. To have more evidence-based practice, there needs to be more practice-based evidence.

The consultation offered a much clearer idea about research questions, community expertise, and how to get the research started.
Malini Nijagal, MD; Director, Women’s Health Research, Prima Medical Foundation

CTSI’s Community Engagement and Health Policy (CE&HP) program is helping to bridge the gap between academic research and community practice in support of relevant research that can impact health. This happens through consultation, linkage services, resources, and training for stakeholders ranging from researchers and community clinicians to public health advocates and policymakers.

This program seeks to mobilize necessary partners to conduct the best research that can make a difference in generalizable settings among diverse populations. This includes:

  • Supporting partnerships between clinical or health service sites and academics who can learn about community priorities, assets, and challenges;
  • Developing relevant research by bringing community clinicians, agencies, institutions, and stakeholders into the design of research questions and protocols;
  • Helping to translate research to practice by working with researchers who want to bring an evaluated program to scale and assess implementation and dissemination.

Among major program initiatives is the San Francisco Health Improvement Partnerships (SF HIP), which is bringing together a range of government, community-based, and private partners to achieve measurable improvements in health in San Francisco through projects directed at high-impact health conditions.


One community-engaged research effort involved engaging nurses in a primary care setting to apply fluoride varnish to children to prevent dental caries. Although research shows that the use of a fluoride varnish significantly decreases rates of dental caries, a common health problem among children aged 1-5, many children still do not receive this treatment.

A partnership led by Margret Walsh, EdD, of the UCSF School of Dentistry, and Diane Dooley, MHS, MD, of the Contra Costa Medical Center, resulted in a pilot program to administer dental fluoride in a non-traditional setting such as a primary care clinic. By training nursing staff on how to deliver the varnish, and working with primary care clinics to help adopt the process and implement changes, this practice-based research proved that delivering fluoride in a primary care setting is both acceptable and feasible. Watch a video to learn more about this project.

To support this effort, CTSI utilized resources from the San Francisco Bay Area Collaborative Research Network (SF BAY CRN), a practice-based research network that it manages, and its Clinical Research Services program. CTSI is now helping to implement the findings of the study to address practice improvement, and to disseminate the findings to other practices.

Special thanks to our partners at the historic Bayview Opera House, and to photographer Rebecca Gallegos, for the use of a photograph for this website.