Community-based research “is a collaborative approach to research that equitably involves, for example, community members, organizational representatives, and researchers in all aspects of the research process.  The partners contribute their strengths to enhance understanding of a given phenomenon and the social and cultural dynamics of the community, and integrate the knowledge gained with action to improve the health and well-being of community members ”. Source: Barbara A. Israel, Amy J. Schulz, Edith A. Parker, and Adam B. Becker. (1998). Community Based Research: Assessing Partnership Approaches to Improve Public Health. Annual Review of Public Health.

The RCHR Community Engagement Core (CEC) is focused on facilitating engagement between the Center health disparities researchers and the community to participate in community-based, solutions driven health disparities research and sharing health disparities information and resources to help the community better understand the impact of disparities on their health. 

May 2023

Find out more about upcoming health disparities research and community health events.

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Learn about our community engagement and community partners’ successes. Click Here


Learn about community-based participatory research (CBPR) and the available resources and tools to help communities engage in research partnerships. Click Here


Request a speaker for your next community health event. Click Here

Community Comments

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ØCEC goal is to improve minority health and reduce health disparities among residents in Hinds, Madison, and Rankin counties in Central MS.

ØCEC plays a critical role in ensuring bidirectional communication between investigators and the various advocacy groups and community organizations to implement cost-effective strategies to address critical health disparities issues in the tri-county area.

ØCEC serves as a nexus for the translation of novel research findings to reduce the incidence and prevalence of health disparity-related diseases in the three-county area of Central MS.

ØThrough a practical CAB composed of community leaders, scientists, government officials and state agencies, faith-based organizations, and several grassroots health organizations, JSU investigators and the community stakeholders work together to facilitate community-based participatory research and the translation of the resulting scientific knowledge to address the local health disparity issues.

Leadership Team

Dr. Donna Antoine LaVigne is the CEC Lead. Dr. Antoine-LaVigne formerly served as the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center (JHCHC) as its Principal Investigator of the All of Us Research Program.  Under her leadership, the All of Us Research Program soared to new heights, from mediocre status to an “A” level program garnering national attention for her work. Prior to this, she led the Jackson State University Jackson Heart Study (JHS) Community partnership/Outreach Office (CPO) and served as the Principal Investigator of the JSU JHS Community Outreach Center (CORC).

Dr. Antoine-LaVigne and her talented team bring extensive experience in developing and implementing many successful and novel community engagement and outreach strategies. Some of these strategies resulted in the recruitment of 5,301 JHS participants resulting from  linkages and partnerships cultivated with faith and community-based organizations; business groups; government agencies; private non-profit organizations; and for profit entities.

Traci Hayes, MBA, MS, DrPH, is an award-winning communications practitioner who has directed health marketing and outreach programs for academia, government, and non-profits. During her tenure as the Director of Communications and Marketing Outreach of the national Research Centers in Minority Institutions Translational Research Network (RTRN), funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, she led initiatives to foster research collaborations between basic, clinical and behavioral scientists. She fostered engagement efforts between the community members and the consortium researchers and worked to increase awareness of minority health disparities.

Dr. Hayes is an assistant professor of public health at the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Hayes’ research is focused on integrative health and health communications. She works with minority populations to integrate their health priorities into theory-driven, community-based behavior change interventions and programs.

Mr. Marty Fortenberry, MSW carries 20+ years of extensive experience in research associated with Community and Public Health. Marty currently serves as the Community Engagement Specialist for the RCMI Center for Health Disparities Research. Mr. Fortenberry focuses his expertise on the recruitment & retention of community partners and stakeholders. Marty formerly served the BROTHERS’ Initiative (Brothers Reaching Out To Help Educate on Routine Screenings) and Mayoral Health Councils located in Hinds, Madison, and Rankin counties.

Mr. Fortenberry also served the Jackson Heart Study (JHS) for many years as the Community Outreach Specialist. He engaged in activities that supported the recruitment, participation and retention of over 5,000+ actively enrolled JHS participants, the largest study of cardiovascular health in African Americans. Marty has been employed with the Jackson Heart Study JSU Community Outreach Center (JSU/CORC) where he served as the Community Outreach Specialist. Mr. Fortenberry’s responsibilities encompassed planning and organizing activities for Community Health Advisor Network (CHAN) composed of volunteers dedicated to increasing health awareness education/prevention of “Cardio Vascular Disease” (CVD) in Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties. Others activities engaged him to support theCommunity Based Participatory Research (CBPR) with the JSU/Jackson Heart Study Community Outreach Center and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He has held positions of Research Associate/SeniorResearch Associate with JSU Community Health Program with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) funded grant (Project START) which is a risk reduction intervention for persons with HIV who are returning to the community after incarceration. In addition, he worked in the areas of HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention for JSU MS Urban Research Center where he served as a Capacity Building Assistant (CBA) and Prevention Specialist. Marty has also served as a Community Outreach Specialist with the MS State Department of Health/Office of Preventive Health/Health Equity (MSDH/OPHHE) Jackson Heart Study Community Engagement Center

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