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The purpose of this article is to describe the process of developing and implementing a transdisciplinary community-based research center, the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) Chicago, to offer a model for designing and implementing research centers that aim to address structural causes of health inequality.
Scholars from diverse backgrounds and disciplines formed a multidisciplinary team for the Center and adopted the structural violence framework as the organizing conceptual model. All Center activities were based on community partnership. The Center activities were organized within three cores: administrative, investigator development, and community engagement and dissemination cores. The key activities during the first year were to develop a pilot grant program for early-stage investigators (ESIs) and to establish community partnership mechanisms.
CHER provided more than 60 consultations for ESIs, which resulted in 31 pilot applications over the three application cycles. Over 200 academic and community partners attended the community symposium and discussed community priority. Some challenges encountered were to improve communication among investigators, to clarify roles and responsibilities of the three cores, and to build consensus on the definition and operationalization of the concept of structural violence.
There is an increasing need for local hubs to facilitate transdisciplinary collaboration and community engagement to effectively address health inequity. Building consensus around a shared vision among partners is a difficult and yet important step toward achieving equity.