For some participants, the Consortium may be merely a vehicle to access data or clinical populations rather than a venue for collaboration. Nonetheless, the Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation illustrates one way in which investigators, policymakers, and treatment providers can partner in the design and implementation of research. It provides an important example of an alliance between research, policy, and practice, and it suggests mechanisms that can be extended and applied to foster more local partnerships.

Navajo Nation

Community-based research now being undertaken by the Navajo Nation was initiated almost two decades ago by officials of the Navajo Nation (beginning with Mr. Gorman, a former tribal official) and a social science researcher, Philip May. After many years of patience and persistence, the research was finally undertaken with federal moneys, conducted under the aegis of the Navajo Nation with the collaboration of Dr. May and other researchers from the University of New Mexico's Center for Alcohol, Substance Abuse, and Addictions (CASAA), where Dr. May is now the director. CASAA worked with treatment providers in the Navajo Nation to evaluate an alcohol treatment program addressing the underlying cultural conflicts that contribute to high alcoholism rates among the Navajo. The approach was consistent with the high value the Navajo place on achieving balance and harmony with nature, family, and spirits. The collaboration provided the Navajo Nation with increased support from federal funding authorities and enhanced credibility for findings from demonstration programs.

Obstacles to establishing this community-based research program included the following:

  • initial suspicions within the tribe that the researchers were only interested in their own ends and did not have a long-lasting commitment to the tribe;
  • a lack of familiarity by the tribe in addressing a major problem related to behavior, youth, health, family, law, and other social factors through research;
  • absence of collaborative arrangements between nearby universities and the Navajo Nation; and
  • insufficient awareness and trust in the funding agencies in working with the Navajo Nation.

Five factors contributed to the eventual success of this community-based research:



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