Developing and Implementing a Community Empowerment Center to Build Local Capacity for Community-level Change

Document Type


Publication Date



Background: Health disparities research is increasingly influenced by two paradigms: community-based participatory research (CBPR) and social determinants of health (SDOH). CBPR calls for collaborative research relationships that empower communities to co-generate research programs while SDOH perspectives focus on macro-level, “upstream” factors influencing health. The purpose of this study was to utilize a CBPR approach to address SDOH among residents of a public-housing community and adjacent neighborhood in Columbia, SC.

Methods: A mini-grant program was developed to encourage community members to develop community-level, community-engaged interventions focused on creating a healthier environment. A six-session training program guided community members in proposal development, with 25 individuals attending at least one session.

Results: Six proposals were submitted for external peer-review. Proposals were scored according to the degree of widespread community benefit, effective community engagement, and feasibility of implementation within a 6-month timeframe. Submitted proposals focused on food security (n=2), exercise (n=1), computer literacy (n=2), and community advocacy (n=2). The three awarded interventions focused on food security, exercise, and community advocacy. Each awardee team received $12,000 for implementation over six months. Additionally, a community garden was implemented in the community. The four interventions were evaluated collectively using a quasi-experimental design to assess their ability to increase community participation among residents.

Conclusions: Community-generated, community-level, and community-engaged interventions provide community members with opportunities to address neighborhood concerns within a locale-specific context. The findings provide guidance for engaging community members in the development of community level interventions.


American Public Health Association Annual Meeting (APHA)


New Orleans, LA