8: No. 3, May 2011
Antonia J. Spadaro, EdD, RN; Jo Anne Grunbaum, EdD; Nicola U. Dawkins, PhD, MPH; Demia S. Wright, MPH; Stephanie K. Rubel, MPH; Diane C. Green, PhD, MPH; Eduardo J. Simoes, MD, MPH
Suggested citation for this article: Spadaro AJ, Grunbaum JA, Dawkins NU, Wright DS, Rubel SK, Green DC, et al. Training and technical assistance to enhance capacity building between
Prevention Research Centers and their partners. Prev Chronic Dis 2011;8(3):A65.
http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2011/may/10_0093.htm. Accessed [date].
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has administered the Prevention Research Centers Program since 1986.
We quantified the number and reach of training programs across all centers, determined
whether the centers' outcomes varied by characteristics of the academic institution, and explored
potential benefits of training and technical assistance for academic researchers and community partners.
We characterized how these activities enhanced capacity building within
Prevention Research Centers and the community.
The program office collected quantitative information on training across all 33
centers via its Internet-based system from April through December 2007. Qualitative data
were collected from April through May 2007. We selected
9 centers each for 2 separate, semistructured, telephone interviews, 1 on training and
1 on technical assistance.
Across 24 centers, 4,777 people were trained in 99 training programs in fiscal year 2007 (October 1, 2006-September 30, 2007). Nearly 30% of
people trained were community members or agency representatives. Training and technical assistance activities provided opportunities to enhance community partners’ capacity in areas such as conducting needs assessments and writing grants and to improve the
centers’ capacity for cultural competency.
Both qualitative and quantitative data demonstrated that training and technical
assistance activities can foster capacity building and provide a reciprocal venue to support researchers’ and the community’s research interests. Future evaluation could assess community and public health partners’ perception of
centers’ training programs and technical assistance.
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Since 1986, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has administered the Prevention Research Centers (PRCs) Program with the mandate to conduct health promotion and disease prevention research, training, and other related activities.
From 2004 through 2009, the program funded 33 PRCs in schools of public health and schools of medicine with a preventive medicine residency. During the past decade, the PRCs’ training and technical assistance (TA) activities broadened to include
community participation to increase community capacity for prevention research and foster partnerships
and trust among academic, community, and public health partners.
The PRCs use a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to actively involve community members, organizational representatives, coalitions (1,2), and researchers throughout the research process (3). This approach emphasizes training, TA, and mentoring (4,5) to enhance community partners’ and researchers’ capacity
for research activities (6-9).
Training programs included trainings in evidence-based public health, physical
activity, survey design, and social marketing. Training programs in minority and underserved communities can help alleviate health disparities
(10-13); they focus on meeting all partners’ needs (14-17) versus solely meeting researchers’ needs (18). Researchers also provide TA for their partners unrelated to research (3)
that balances the researchers’ need for community participation in the research and the community’s need for information.
Other large research initiatives such as the National Science Foundation’s Science and Technology Centers Program (19) and the Transdisciplinary
Tobacco Use Research Center initiative include trainings for researchers and students
but not communities (20,21). Initiatives that provide training for communities include CDC’s National Academic Centers of Excellence
on Youth Violence (ACEs) (22). One such
center, the Harvard Youth
Violence Prevention Center, “[teaches] community partners about evaluation and asset mapping” (23).
In this study, we quantified the number and reach of training programs across all 33 PRCs
and determined whether the centers’ outcomes varied by characteristics of the academic institution. We also explored how academic researchers and community partners benefited from training programs and TA and how these activities enhanced capacity building in PRC and communities.
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Quantitative data collection and analysis
Training programs and intended audience
The PRC Program Office’s information system is a Web-based
information management system used to collect national evaluation data related
to the PRC Program’s indicators, work plans, and progress reports. Program
indicators are quantitative measures to help identify program success and areas
needing improvement. Before data entry, the PRC Program Office conducted a
Web-based training session for all PRCs. Data entry occurred from April through
December 2007. PRC staff (most often the evaluator or administrator)
entered retrospective and current data to reflect fiscal year 2007 (FY 2007) (October
1, 2006–September 30, 2007). Of the 28 PRCs with available training programs, 24
implemented 99 training programs (range, 1-15; mean, 4.1) and
provided data on number of people trained; 4 PRCs did not report
implementation data. Where data were missing, we could not determine
whether the PRC had no data to report or whether it simply did not enter the
The number and type of participants trained
We focused on 2 outcomes related to the training data: the types of audiences for whom training programs are designed and the number of people who were trained.
For each training program, the PRC identified the audience
type(s) for whom that training program is intended or designed. Audience types
included academic faculty or other researchers, community members, community
agency or other nongovernmental (NGO) representatives, health care practioners,
public health employees, and public health students. A training
program can be intended for 1 or many types of audiences. A training program is supported from PRC funds or included in the PRC’s portfolio of activities. It may occur only once, be recurring, or be available for ongoing distribution. An available training program is one developed by a PRC that may or may not have been delivered during FY 2007; an
implemented training program was delivered during FY 2007.
We examined the association between types of trained participants and 4 independent variables characterizing PRCs that delivered trainings: funding level (the amount of total funding PRCs received), actual indirect cost rate (the proportion of funds subtracted from a grant to help cover the academic institution’s operating expenses:
actual indirect cost rate = 100 – direct cost/total cost), type of academic institution, and type of school. We compared the
mean number of people trained by type of participant across levels of the same independent variables. We categorized both funding level and the institution’s actual indirect cost rate for all 33 PRCs into approximate tertiles
of low, moderate, and high. We categorized type of academic institution as
public, public land-grant, or private, and type of school as public health or
We used Access data tables to create datasets in SAS (SAS, Inc, Cary, North
Carolina) for analysis. We calculated mean, median, range, and total number of people trained by type of participant. We conducted cross-tabulations of the number of people trained by type of participant and in total with the
4 independent variables to examine their effect. We used Pearson
χ2 to test for the association of participant type with each independent
variable, and where associations were found, we examined cell
χ2 values to determine which cells (because
of differences between observed and expected frequencies) were top contributors to the overall
χ2 statistic. To compare the mean number of people trained across levels of independent variables, we used the Kruskal-Wallis test because the variable representing number of people trained was not normally distributed. We used α = .05 for all significance testing.
Qualitative data collection and analysis
Two sets of telephone interviews provided the context for community engagement in and support for training and TA. One interview guide focused on the
diversity of PRC training activities
(Appendix A); training activities
were defined as activities that occur within training programs or separately, such as conducting needs assessments. The other interview guide focused on the
diversity of PRC technical assistance and mentoring
(Appendix B). The study team specified sampling criteria
guided selection of 9 PRCs for each interview guide. Each PRC determined the most knowledgeable respondent (24).
One PRC Program Office staff member conducted telephone interviews from April
through May 2007. Each interview lasted 20 to 60 minutes. Definitions provided for respondents included training (transferring knowledge, skills, and competencies) (17),
TA (providing guidance, support, and expertise) (25), and mentoring (a sustained
relationship between 2 people that increases the mentee’s self-confidence and skills) (4). Probes helped facilitate discussion and
information sharing. For example, an interview question to elicit information about identification of TA needs and goals was, “Do your community partners identify for you their TA needs and goals? If yes, how?” Probes were “needs assessment” and “request from recipient.” We recorded and transcribed all interviews and used ATLAS.ti version 5.2.10 software
(ATLAS.ti Scientific Software Development GmbH, Berlin, Germany) for analysis. A preliminary set of codes or
start list included overarching categories in the interview guides and subcategories or probes (26).
The study team arranged codes hierarchically and subcodes linked to broader-level codes. The interviewer read each transcript to capture recurring themes, breadth of responses, and any subtle or infrequent patterns or themes. Two study team members independently coded
2 transcripts for each interview guide (intercoder agreement: 84% for training and 89% for TA). To designate the frequency
that an idea was expressed across different interview respondents, we used these terms: a couple =
2; a few = 3; some = 4 to 5; most = 6 to 8; all = 9.
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Although all 33 PRCs entered data into the PRC information system, only 28 PRCs entered data
related to training programs. No information was available to determine whether the
other 5 PRCs had training programs; therefore, data were analyzed for the 28 PRCs that provided data. The 28 PRCs reported 138 available training programs, ranging from 1
to 15 (mean, 4.9). One-third of available training programs were designed for community members and community agency or other
NGO representatives, and one-fourth were designed for public health employees (Table 1).
Twenty-four PRCs implemented 99 training programs, ranging from 1 to 15 each (mean,
4.1), and they trained 4,777 participants; 20% were community agency or NGO representatives, 12%
were public health employees, and 9% were public health students
Significant associations existed between the type of participant
trained and PRC funding level (P < .001,
Table 3), actual indirect cost rate (P < .001,
Table 4), type of academic institution (P <.001,
Table 5), and type of school (P <.001,
Table 6). The mean number of participants trained did
not differ by PRC funding level (P = .80), direct cost rate (P
= .05), type of institution (P = .10), or type of school (P =
We report the most salient themes that emerged from each interview guide. Each of the 9 PRCs selected to participate in an interview provided 1 respondent for a total of 18 respondents.
Respondents were 8 PRC directors, 3 associate directors, 1 community liaison,
3 research scientists, 1 principal investigator, 1 communications contact, and 1 administrator. All invited PRCs participated in the interviews.
PRC training activities
Most respondents reported that a combination of methods was used to identify
training needs such as focus groups, surveys, needs assessments, and topics raised during
community advisory board meetings. One respondent mentioned identifying training needs “through focus groups with residents, community members, and the Public Health Commission
. . .”.
Most respondents stated that they provided training for various community partners, including community-based organizations, coalitions, community advisory board members, public health professionals, faculty, and graduate students. One respondent noted a key part of a model being tested “at our PRC
. . . is training community members who participate in a coalition or advisory group.” To promote the trainings, PRCs made information available through flyers, advertising, and in response to
community members’ inquiries at meetings.
The PRCs provided various training programs to enhance community partners’ skills and knowledge. Training on lifestyle modifications and healthy living practices was offered to community residents to improve quality of life. One respondent trained the community committee on conducting needs assessments, obtaining funding, and conducting community surveys.
Community partners’ roles in developing, providing, or evaluating training varied both within and across PRCs. Partners helped develop train-the-trainer activities, conceptualize training, provide funding and space, develop and implement training curricula, recruit participants, and establish training goals and objectives. Some respondents indicated
that the community implemented a training to increase or develop skills among PRC staff. The community’s training for PRC staff included
providing information about “culturally sensitive and culturally competent health education curricula [for] the schools,” understanding the roles of staff at community organizations, and working with local communities.
Most respondents cited examples of institutional support for their training programs, including the provision of space, equipment,
and staff at their institutions. However, training depended on funding resources and was not highly valued for promotion and tenure, as evidenced by being “told to do less of it [training],”
having more weight placed on publications, and doing “the kind of thing that is reviewed and rated and ranked by
appointment, promotion, and tenure committees.”
Respondents’ evaluation of training activities included informal and formal methods such as face-to-face conversations and workshop evaluations. One respondent mentioned a “more sophisticated
. . . capacity assessment . . . conducted with coalition members or board members by an outsider, as well as by
1 of our senior evaluators in the PRC.”
PRC technical assistance and mentoring
Most respondents noted that both formal and informal methods were used to identify TA needs such as assessment of health priorities and community committee members’ completion of a survey. TA needs
were identified informally when requests were made either verbally (telephone) or in writing (e-mail). One respondent noted, “generally, if [community partners] need things, we just provide it for them.”
Most respondents said they provided TA to many partners, including people, community and coalition board members, community health advisors, nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations, and county health departments. One respondent stated that TA recipients included people “involved in health promotion [and] disease prevention in the communities that we work in
. . . for example, if the health department wanted us to [provide] technical assistance on some project.” TA was provided directly and indirectly by e-mail, meetings, and telephone.
The TA topics varied according to the PRCs’ research and community partners’ needs. Most respondents provided TA on physical activity research. In addition, TA was offered to community partners for grant writing, understanding CBPR, nutrition, and evaluation. Most respondents indicated
that the community provided TA to increase or develop skills among PRC staff on such topics as disaster preparedness, effective communication with partners, and community engagement.
Most respondents reported that institutional support for their TA included
providing space and equipment at their institutions. As with training, TA depended on funding resources and was not highly valued for promotion and tenure. One respondent noted that more weight
was placed on publications than hiring of additional faculty and staff for TA.
Most respondents evaluated TA both informally and formally. They
evaluated TA by counting additional grants obtained or community services provided, checking with the community to see how programs progressed, doing workshop evaluations, obtaining anecdotal reports from TA recipients, and evaluating change
continually. One respondent mentioned that evaluation of TA did not occur at their PRC.
The PRCs also engaged in mentoring relationships with their community
partners. For example, a staff member at 1 PRC had a mentoring relationship with a health commissioner regarding
“developing new programs and evaluation contracts.” On an organizational level, 1 respondent had a mentoring relationship with an organization that was part of the PRC’s community committee. This organization works with the PRC’s core research project in areas such as grant writing,
evaluation, and strategic planning. One respondent gave examples of PRC staff mentoring, which included the PRC director’s mentoring relationship with a school vice principal and the respondent’s work with state health department staff “in chronic diseases
. . . to develop new programs.” Another respondent reported a 3-year mentoring relationship with an intern.
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This study demonstrates both the reach of the PRC training programs and the community context
where training, TA, and mentoring occur. During the 1-year funding cycle studied, the PRCs trained
approximately 4,700 people. The qualitative data demonstrate numerous methods PRCs use to identify
the training needs of their community members and other partners. In addition, the data show the extensive involvement of community partners in developing and
implementing training programs.
Qualitative data demonstrate that PRCs also engage in less formal training activities such as TA and mentoring. PRCs use both formal and informal methods to determine TA needs of their partners, and TA is reciprocal between PRCs and their communities. Some PRCs have formal mentoring relationships with individual and organizational-level community partners.
Of interest are the associations between type of participant trained and PRC funding level, actual indirect cost rate, type of academic institution, and type of school. For all
4 variables, these associations may reflect that different academic institutions and schools target different audiences.
On average, public land-grant institutions trained twice as many participants as private institutions and
4 times as many participants as other public institutions. These findings are consistent with the mission of public land-grant institutions, which
is to support a vision for higher
education including public service and outreach (27).
Study limitations include that the data reflect FY 2007 and may not represent all years of the funding cycle
(FYs 2004-2009). Also, only 28 PRCs
provided data on training programs and 24 provided data on the number of people
trained. Each interview topic was conducted with only 9 PRCs, which limits the generalizability
Not enough information is available regarding training activities for communities funded through large research initiatives.
Although the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center provides training for researchers and students,
it does not provide training for communities (21). The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH's)
National Center for Research Resources supports training for approximately 30,000 NIH-funded biomedical investigators across the country; however, no published
data specify the number of training programs or the number and type of participants trained (28).
CDC’s ACE injury and violence prevention projects “connect [both] academic and community resources” (22) via training as part of their
However, no published data exist. Thus, we cannot compare PRC training programs and recipients to other large research initiatives.
Our study has implications for researchers, community partners, and public health practitioners who engage in CBPR. Results demonstrate that training and TA can foster capacity building and provide a reciprocal venue to support researchers’ and the community’s research interests. However, we found that incentives for researchers to engage in training activities and TA may be jeopardized
because institutional support is contingent on resources and the activities are not highly
valued for promotion and tenure. Lack of support could limit faculty from providing needed training programs and TA to community partners that face staff turnover and changes in staff assignments.
Data analysis for FY 2008 and FY 2009 is under way and will help validate the data
for FY 2007. Future evaluation could assess capacity change resulting from training and TA, community and public health partners’ perception of PRC training programs and TA, the importance of these activities for CBPR, and how they enhance community engagement and increase community capacity (24).
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We acknowledge the support of Paul Z. Siegel, MD, MPH, at CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), Division of Adult and Community Health (DACH), Community Health and Program Services Branch,
and Sharrice White-Cooper, MPH, and Marie Borgella, MBA, at CDC’s NCCDPHP/DACH, Prevention Research Centers Program
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Corresponding Author: Antonia J. Spadaro, EdD, RN, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Mailstop K-45, Atlanta, GA 30341. Telephone: 770-488-5809. E-mail:
Author Affiliations: Jo Anne Grunbaum, Demia S. Wright, Diane C. Green, Eduardo J. Simoes, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia; Nicola U. Dawkins, Stephanie K. Rubel, ICF Macro, Atlanta, Georgia.
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