UC Berkeley Institute of Personality and Social Research

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IPSR Mini grant awarded to Rachel Berkowitz

IPSR has awarded Rachel Berkowitz $1000 to support her research on place-based community driven efforts addressing birth outcome inequities. Rachel is a public health doctoral candidate in the DrPH program who is collaborating with Dr. Rebecca Reno, a post-doctoral fellow in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s Center for Excellence on Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health, on this research project. The project is also being conducted with guidance from Dr. Amani Allen.

Health disparities, including poor birth outcomes, are best understood as a “wicked problem”, as the factors impacting health are complex, cannot be easily addressed with a single solution, and require involvement of sectors outside of health. Historically, to address the entrenched nature of poor health outcomes, interventions have been developed from the top down; experts, often times those working in universities or community organizations, would define the problem and impose solutions on communities. More recently, scholars and practitioners have been taking a community-driven approach to both research and interventions related to community transformation. A community-driven approach is one in which community members are participants and driving forces throughout a community transformation process -- from priority setting to the implementation of interventions. This type of approach is increasingly being recognized as a more equitable, effective method to achieve social change; however, more research is needed on how best to implement it.

Rachel’s study seeks to engage practitioners who are part of the Best Babies Zone, a national place-based community transformation endeavor with the long-term goal of addressing racial inequities in birth outcomes, to understand how they describe, personally experience, and identify the facilitators and barriers to implementing a community-driven approach in their work. She is using qualitative research methods as well as Group Model Building, a community-based systems dynamics methodology, to better understand practitioners' perspectives and to collaboratively develop a model of the system which drives the implementation of community-driven approaches.

Congratulations, Rachel!