Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Center for Community Health

Community, Patient and Provider Engagement in Research: Key Considerations and Frequently Asked Questions


Academic institutions, government and private funders, scientists and communities are increasingly recognizing the benefits of engaging patients, caregivers, health care providers, community- and faith-based organizations, community residents and policymakers in research. Engagement offers a promising approach for ensuring the research and interventions are culturally sensitive and responsive to community needs, as well as increasing the likelihood of generating meaningful and sustainable results. Engagement can also improve research outcomes by helping to avoid common pitfalls that can cause projects to fail (e.g. low enrollment, low intervention fidelity, etc.). Increasingly, engagement is recognized as necessary for translating existing research to implement and sustain new health promotion programs, change clinical practice, improve population health and reduce health disparities.

This document provides a series of key considerations related to incorporating engagement into different phases of a research project: (1) Getting Started, (2) Implementation, (3) Dissemination.  These key considerations are intended to be useful regardless of the type and amount of engagement a research project uses.  The document is also intended to be a resource for researchers who are preparing grant applications that require or suggest patient/community/stakeholder engagement. Addressing these key considerations in grant applications illustrates an understanding of fundamental issues related to engagement that are emphasized by reviewers/study sections.

We encourage you to follow-up with staff or faculty at Northwestern University’s Center for Community Health for clarification on any of the recommendations found in this document or for consultation on how to put these recommendations into practice. You may also find some useful resources on the websites below.


Center for Community Health:,

Jen Brown, Director, Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities (ARCC):,
*New Online Resource Directory*

Susan LeBailly, Director, Practice-Based Research (PBR) Program:

Darius Tandon, Associate Director, Center for Community Health (CCH):

Click here for PDF document of the full Key for Considerations/FAQs document.