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Practice-based research in community acupuncture clinics: The utility of community-based participatory research.

Principal Investigator:  Kim Tippens ND, MSAOM

Purpose: Community-based participatory research (CBPR) equitably involves researchers, community members, and organizational partners in all aspects of the research process. Widely practiced in social science research, CBPR can be a useful approach to practice-based research in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).  The presenter will discuss the strengths and challenges of applying CBPR principles to research in community acupuncture clinics that provide group-based treatments for a sliding scale fee. 

Methods:  A participatory approach was used to establish an academic-community health partnership with the Working Class Acupuncture (WCA) clinic in Portland, Oregon.  Academic and community partners collaborated to identify the most salient research question, design the study, and develop and disseminate the survey instrument.  The resulting study examined sociodemographic characteristics of WCA clients, conditions treated, reasons for use, and satisfaction with services. 

Results:  Survey response was high, with a total of 478 surveys collected in 6 weeks. WCA clients are primarily white (87%) and female (72%), with an annual household income of less than $55,000 (77%); 25% of respondents are uninsured, 29% are unemployed; 69% completed college. More than half (55%) of respondents reported that acupuncture had helped their condition and 90% were “very satisfied” with the treatment they received at WCA.  Affordability was most highly regarded as a reason for seeking care at WCA.  Qualitative analysis of open-ended responses will also be presented.

Discussion:  Survey findings have prompted community partners to develop strategies for improving racial diversity among their clients. Consistent with CBPR principles, the next stage of research will use collaborative approaches to assess practice patterns and outcomes through community engagement and social action. CBPR facilitates research efficiency and real-world relevance, and is therefore an important approach for future practice-based research in CAM.