Improving Health by Healing Community

How might we ensure that all children in Cincinnati thrive?


The Challenge
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals, but their headquarters are situated in a neighborhood with one of the nation’s highest infant mortality rates. CCHMC couldn’t improve health outcomes in Avondale without working with residents, but the hospital had to start by rebuilding their relationship with the neighborhood


The Approach
We knew traditional forms of community engagement wouldn’t go deep enough for this project. To truly understand the barriers, needs and interests of families that used community health services, we asked local parents – a group typically approached as research subjects – to help us define and frame the work as peer researchers. Read the full case study.


The Details
Our work included:

  • Developing a research methodology that merged Community-Based Participatory Research with Ethnography 
  • Training peer researchers to conduct interviews, co-develop research guide and collect data using photovoice, a group analysis method that combines photography with grassroots social action
  • Vetting ideas with peer researchers, caretakers and community partners as experts
  • Coaching community partners through prototyping six concepts


The Impact

The project produced a series of concepts that addressed a range of health-related issues. Parents led the implementation of six of the ideas, which they tested in their own communities. One of those ideas, a resident advocacy model called Justice Promoters, was further explored as an in-depth pilot in 2018.

In the initial pilot of Justice Promoters, resident advocates and DI looked at housing insecurity, one of the root causes of poor health outcomes in Avondale.  The team found that evictions often stemmed from tenants not understanding their lease agreement and housing rights. The solution: a co-designed, peer-to-peer facilitated “Decoding Your Lease” prototype tool.

The success and Decoding Your Lease and Justice Promoters model is now being studied for other neighborhoods and to address other root cause issues like Criminal Record Expungement and Navigating Safe Housing for Immigrants.


Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center


Community-Centered Design



Qualitative Research
Community Engagement
Idea Generation
Prototype Coaching



2015 – Ongoing

I am a mother—yes, I was a peer researcher. I also work to survive. I work two jobs. I share myself at every meeting: my views, my life, my story. Yet to hear others, to allow others to share their story, it brings the purpose of this effort to a higher level.

Peer Researcher and Price Hill Resident

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