Rural Health Research & Community Engagement Resources

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Identifying and Overcoming Barriers to Health and Health Care in Northern New England

In rural areas of northern New England, residents may experience barriers to health care access, including transportation and provider capacity. Such barriers may reduce access to primary care, mental health care, and cutting-edge treatments typically provided by academic medical centers, such as clinical trials for cancer and other diseases.

Building Academic–Community Partnerships

Systematically improving our understanding of differences in health care delivery between rural and non-rural areas has enormous potential to inform health care improvements that would impact individual patients and entire populations. Extending state-of-the art treatment (such as for cancer) from academic settings to rural areas, and developing research ideas from rural communities into rigorous studies could greatly expand our knowledge of how rurality impacts health and health care, and how we can use this information to improve the health of rural New England. This is a principal mission of the Rural Health Research & Community Engagement Core.

Engaging the Community in Research

When clinicians and community-based partners work collaboratively to facilitate community participation in research, meaningful progress can result. We are actively building capacity for health care stakeholders and rural community members to participate in research activities, and for academic institution-based researchers to effectively engage rural health care providers and their patients in research. 
Community member input on research priorities and study design can inform the goals and strategies of clinical and translational investigations. Studies have shown the enormous potential for community-member support in all areas of research planning and design to accelerate research progress. For example community input can be invaluable for developing messaging and communications tools, reviewing informed consent documents, and providing feedback on research protocols. In the context of rural health care research, the concept of community includes the following:

  • People directly or indirectly impacted by a research intervention, for example, patients and their families
  • Staff, groups, or individuals responsible for systems-level healthcare implementation and delivery, for example, community leaders and staff in community-based organizations, and individuals and groups paying for, purchasing, or making policy decisions about health.
  • Anyone delivering health care, such as health and mental health care providers, support staff, and administrators in locations like clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, and home-based programs

How Can I Get Involved?

The Rural Health Research & Community Engagement Core is developing initiatives that will provide opportunities for community input from health care providers, staff and patients in rural areas of northern New England. As these initiatives are launched, the core will solicit input from rural health stakeholders and consumers.

There are significant resources for conducting clinical and translational research currently available through the Northern New England Clinical & Translational Research Network. These include opportunities for professional development, research navigation, research technology, and pilot project funding.


Opioid Prescribing Improvement with QI Toolkit and Coaches (Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality)

Goal: Engage primary care practices in a quality improvement project to improve opioid prescribing for patients with chronic pain. All practice receive materials to assist with quality improvement.  Practices randomized to the active arm also get a virtual coach to support the project remotely.  Practices not randomized to the active arm get access to the virtual coach at the end of data collection.  

Eligibility: any primary care practice in Maine or Vermont can participate, as long as they agree to:

  1. Support a quality improvement team to improve opioid prescribing and a person to facilitate the team’s work. The team has a year to complete its work but some teams finish in much less than a year.
  2. Allow the team to make practice-wide changes, not changes that affect just some prescribers but not others
  3. Set up (or continue to support) a regular meeting of prescribers to review practice performance towards their own goals
  4. Allow researchers to train (and pay for) internal staff to conduct EHR chart audits and download data from the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Participating practices will receive a stipend of $10,000. 

Deadline: May 7, 2021.

Contact information: Connie van Eeghen, DrPH at or 802-373-6286.