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CCPH Fellows 2002/2003: Cassandra Ritas

Cassandra Ritas holds a Master's in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Currently, she is the Policy Analyst for the Center on AIDS, Drugs, and Community Health, which is affiliated with Hunter College, the City University of New York, her undergraduate alma mater. She serves as chair of the Policy Work Group of the Harlem Urban Research Center, one of three CDC funded community-based participatory research centers. Additionally, she is a member of the New York State Practice Improvement Collaborative, the New York City Practice Research Network, the Alliance for Inmates with AIDS, and the Criminal Justice Alliance.

Ms. Ritas has a life-long commitment to the creation of effective public policy through community participation. In 1992 and 1993 she was a member of the fledgling direct action group The Lesbian Avengers. In 1997 she designed and co-taught an action research curriculum to Chinatown youth from low-income families. The participants learned a range of research techniques, conducted community surveys, and held negotiations with elected officials upon emerging community issues. In 1999 and 2000 she worked with the staff, tenants, and board of a low-income supportive housing development for women to develop decision-making protocols that enhanced participation and understanding, and diminished rule-breaking.

Project Title

Speaking truth, creating power: Development of a health policy tool kit for community-based participatory researchers

Project Description

The goal of this project is to create a tool kit for researchers and activists who seek to use the findings of community-based participatory research (CBPR) in the field of health to engage in community-based policy analysis, planning, and advocacy. This tool kit will include a review of published materials from CBPR practitioners as well as a synopsis of insights gleaned from an online discussion of CBPR health policy work. The tool kit will be anchored in examples from work with the Harlem Urban Research Center; one of three CDC funded urban CBPR centers.

The product of this project will be accessible to both community partners and researchers and will include:

  • An introduction to the application of CBPR principles in the policy arena.
  • A guide for assessing group resources available to leverage for policy change.
  • A guide to identifying the important dimensions of a particular policy issue.
  • A discussion of the importance of diversity in the CBPR collaboration, how to identify and recruit collaborators, and how to most effectively use diverse members to affect policy change.
  • An outline of policy change strategies highlighting the role of various CBPR collaborators.
  • A discussion of CBPR group process around policy advocacy including specific suggestions for overcoming challenges.

Project Products

Speaking Truth, Creating Power: A Guide to Policy Work for Community-Based Participatory Research Practitioners - authored by CCPH Fellow Cassandra Ritas, this tool-kit is designed for community-based participatory research institutional and community partners who want to create or change policies that affect health in their communities.



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