Addressing social isolation and improving and well-being among marginalized populations in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

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Background: Social isolation reduces the sense of purpose and belonging, and limits participation in activities that improve well-being. We used community-based participatory research to address social isolation and to improve inclusion and well-being. Methods: The core team held meetings with stakeholders including community health, civic engagement and social service organizations, for-profit and non-profit hospitals, and churches. During these meetings, we agreed to hold five focus groups with Latinx populations, black men, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized persons. Stakeholders reached out to people who stopped showing up to receive services, persons experiencing homelessness, formerly incarcerated, and people in recovery or who are actively using substances. Stakeholders identified connectors who facilitated recruitment of people experiencing isolation. At least one person from each focus group joined a leadership team. The team was trained to discuss and share the findings from focus groups in social inclusion meetings. This events brought together people who feel excluded, organizations and other community stakeholders. Results: We identified factors that make communities welcoming and inclusive. We developed a community action plan to increase social inclusion within the context of existing programs and services. We also developed a measure for social inclusion at the organizational level based on the experiences of marginalized populations. Conclusions: We must rely on the expertise of people on who research bears direct relevance. Here, CBPR served a dual propose: 1) Develop ways of addressing social isolation and 2) Directly increasing social participation and community engagement among marginalized groups.


Department of Family Medicine, Department of Family Medicine Faculty

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