Building Bridges to Address Health Disparities in Puerto Rico: the “Salud para Piñones” Project

Enid J. García-Rivera, Princess Pacheco, Marielis Colón, Mary Helen Mays, Maricruz Rivera, Verónica Munet-Díaz, María Del R. González, María Rodríguez, Rebecca Rodríguez, Astrid Morales


Over the past several decades, Puerto Ricans have faced increased health threats from chronic diseases, particularly diabetes and hypertension. The patient-provider relationship is the main platform for individual disease management, whereas the community, as an agent of change for the community’s health status, has been limited in its support of individual health. Likewise, traditional research approaches within communities have placed academic researchers at the center of the process, considering their knowledge was of greater value than that of the community. In this paradigm, the academic researcher frequently owns and controls the research process. The primary aim is contributing to the scientific knowledge, but not necessarily to improve the community’s health status or empower communities for social change. In contrast, the community-based participatory research (CBPR) model brings community members and leaders together with researchers in a process that supports mutual learning and empowers the community to take a leadership role in its own health and well-being. This article describes the development of the community-campus partnership between the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine and Piñones, a semi-rural community, and the resulting CBPR project: “Salud para Piñones”. This project represents a collaborative effort to understand and address the community’s health needs and health disparities based on the community’s participation as keystone of the process. This participatory approach represents a valuable ally in the development of long-term community-academy partnerships, thus providing opportunities to establish relevant and effective ways to translate evidence-based interventions into concrete actions that impact the individual and community’s wellbeing.


Health disparities, Community campus partnerships, Puerto Rico

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Published by the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus
Founded in 1982