Cardiovascular disease; community-engagement; disparities; health promotion


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Public Health


Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death in the United States, and are characterized by socioeconomic, geographic, ethnic, and gender disparities in risk, morbidity and mortality. In response, public health efforts have moved beyond approaches focusing on individual-level behavior change toward culturally appropriate community-focused efforts. In specific, engagement of community partners is now recognized as essential to facilitate changes at multiple levels to improve cardiovascular disease outcomes.

This paper shares lessons learned to deepen appreciation for the unique challenges community-engagement in health disparities research entails, including variations in practice, time commitment, and complexity. This paper presents three case studies documenting community-engagement in the planning, implementation and evaluation processes. All projects collaborated with community partners in contexts with disproportionately high rates of cardiovascular disease but with distinct programmatic foci: the East Los Angeles, California project focused on improving access to fresh fruit and vegetables through corner store makeovers; the Boston, Massachusetts project reached out to and engaged Puerto Rican community members in a lifestyle intervention study; and the Lenoir County, North Carolina project engaged local restaurant owners and a range of community agencies in healthy lifestyle promotion activities. These cases provide examples of the unique solutions and approaches to issues common in doing community-engagement work.