Social Work Study Turns to Community Board for New Insights on HIV Health Outcomes

A study led by Department of Social Work Assistant Professor D. Scott Batey is using community-based participatory research to find relationships between community environments and health outcomes for people living with HIV.
A study led by Department of Social Work Assistant Professor D. Scott Batey is using community-based participatory research to find relationships between community environments and health outcomes for people living with HIV.

Community Advisory BoardThat research is guided by a community advisory board comprised of UAB and UA researchers, Birmingham AIDS Outreach staff members, and five people living with HIV/AIDS. The board presented a poster "Community Context and HIV Health Outcomes: Who Knows Better Than the Community Itself?" on Oct. 14 at the 2016 Community Engagement Institute, a conference focused on issues related to health equity and social justice.

According to the study, Alabama is an exemplar of the HIV epidemic in the South, with barriers to access and poor outcomes for people with HIV. The researchers hope for a  better understanding of how community characteristics affect retention in HIV primary medical care.

"HIV is a natural fit for a social work researcher because many people living with HIV are faced daily with health disparities, stigma, and tremendous other barriers that prevent them from achieving optimal health outcomes," Batey said.

The board is finishing the final interviews with study participants next week, and the next step is to transcribe audio recordings and analyze the qualitative data. Batey said he expects to complete data analysis by the end of the year.

"The general inclusion of the board, and, additionally, the board’s more specific, meaningful participation in all aspects of study implementation, has been invaluable," Batey said. "From feedback on appropriate participant incentives and content of the in-depth interview guide to consistent monitoring of recruitment and enrollment, the board — as representatives of the study’s target population — has been actively involved. "

The researchers have found that community voices provide insight on best strategies, present a dynamic learning process, and inform research development and implementation.

"Conducting a social work research study among persons living with HIV that is guided by a CBPR orientation, puts those most affected by HIV and, indeed, those most likely to benefit from study results, at the core of the research," Batey said. "It allows the social work researcher, the study participants, and representatives of the broader community to work together to address existing gaps in service delivery, and it genuinely incorporates all members of the study team into the shared-power structure."

Practicing social workers can use the findings of the study by applying them to develop interventions for people who have HIV in their community.

Batey said he has been struck by the passion, the ownership, and the investment that the board has demonstrated.

"In the end, I know that the study will more accurately reflect the needs of the community with the guidance that we have received from this important group," he said.​

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