Over the last 30 years, researchers have called for increased community involvement in developing interventions to broadly improve community health and well-being. Community involvement in the implementation of mental health interventions often focuses on applying strategies to identify a population’s behavioral health needs, on engaging hard-to-reach communities in the use of interventions developed and tested in clinical settings, and, in some cases, on soliciting input to modify existing interventions and make them more relevant to members of these communities. Yet, these strategies are researcher-initiated and rely on community members as informants rather than experts in their own right. The current movement toward equitable implementation requires centering community perspectives in implementation research and practice.

In what follows, we present community-defined evidence as a potential framework for equitable implementation. This approach features the local experiences and knowledge of marginalized communities, and includes a keen understanding of the root causes of the health challenges they face. Community-defined evidence depends on active collaboration of local residents in the development and use of culturally responsive, community-focused interventions that address their social and behavioral conditions, as these residents define them. The Bienvenido Program, a mental health promotion program created at the Northeastern Center (NEC), a well-established community mental health center in Ligonier, Indiana, demonstrates the successful application of the community-defined evidence model for program implementation.

While Latinx families have resided in parts of the rural Midwest for more than a century, recreational vehicle manufacturing jobs attracted significant numbers of Latinx residents to northeast Indiana in the 1990s. Ligonier, a small rural community, saw its Latinx population grow by 522 percent between 1990 and 2003.

Read the full article about community-defined evidence by Linda M. Callejas, Gilberto Perez Jr., and Francisco J. Limon at Stanford Social Innovation Review.