At Evidence for Action (E4A), and under our racial equity call for proposals, we value and fund research to critically evaluate interventions that aim to disrupt the harmful impacts of systemic racism and improve health equity. Historically, the program has funded a mix of quantitative and qualitative work. Here we highlight key considerations of qualitative methods, as one among a spectrum of methodological approaches, that are suitable to address the complexity of the actionable research able to advance health and racial equity. Qualitative methods are key analytic strategies to unravel the mechanisms in which racism intersects with policies, programs and other known social determinants of health.
In conversation with qualitative methodologists at E4A – Drs. Charles H. Lea, Jeana E. Morrison, and Terrell Winder – we outline considerations, challenges, and research questions that may be addressed through qualitative work under the current call for proposals.
Considerations for Constructing a Qualitative Study
Four core areas in which qualitative work is ideal include, but are not limited to:
- Exploratory questions for further inquiry around development and implementation of interventions;
- Questions to understand the how and why of larger systems of oppression and social issues of inequality;
- Questions that embody the community’s values, perspectives, and lived experiences; and
- Solutions-oriented questions to improve strengths-based interventions.
Qualitative racial equity research can provide in-depth and community-specific understanding of context and the ways in which culture and interlocking systems of oppression, power, and privilege impact individuals’ experiences, perspectives, and outcomes. Additionally, who takes part in the qualitative research is all the more important to reflect community representation of populations who are particularly understudied (e.g., Indigenous populations) or unduly generalized across cultures (e.g., Asian, Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or Black Americans). Innovative qualitative approaches may include studies that assess larger structures such as transformative justice related approaches to address systems of power.
Qualitative Studies in E4A Proposals
In evaluating proposals at E4A, our team carefully and critically reviews the scope, feasibility and strengths of proposed studies. We are excited to see qualitative projects that push the boundaries in how we think about health outcomes and racial equity across the lifespan, as well as work that occurs within and across various contexts (e.g., schools, justice systems, and places of worship). We value strengths-based frameworks and targeted studies that are grounded in theory to capture focused health outcomes. We also strongly encourage co-construction of studies with communities of interest to integrate perspectives of diverse intersectionalities of race and other dimensions of identity appropriate for the proposed research.
Among many challenges of constructing a research project, strong collaboration and engagement of community members requires demonstration of a genuine connection and rapport. Proposals should also aim to highlight and address power dynamics within 1) research processes, particularly with community engagement and partnerships and 2) dissemination of research findings. An example of a unique challenge may include ensuring safety and protection of data collected within interview protocols when including vulnerable groups such as undocumented immigrants or prison populations.
Putting Evidence Into Action
Qualitative research incorporates narratives of diverse individuals in various contexts to drive and inform effective change towards racial equity. We emphasize that constructing a strong question always precedes and informs the choice of a methodological approach. E4A welcomes projects of all methodological approaches – qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods – and looks forward to funding projects featuring innovative approaches to advancing health and racial equity.