The Together with Veterans implementation strategy is modeled after best practices in Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR). CBPR is a grassroots research and action framework emphasizing shared decision-making and buy-in at all stages of engagement, implementation, and evaluation. CBPR is widely recognized as an effective approach to reducing health disparities. Participatory approaches to community health intervention maximize the effective implementation of evidence based practices by ensuring that the work is fully grounded in the local community’s knowledge and needs. No one knows their community better than themselves. Perhaps most important, participation means humility, listening, and learning to respect all participants as providing knowledge to improve and enhance action.
Together with Veterans Steps Overview
- Build Partnerships Involving Traditional and Non-traditional Partners: Develop partnerships and identify a coalition or advisory board to oversee planning, implementation, and evaluation. In developing the coalition it is important to find champions from within the community to not only help lead the process, but also help identify the right stakeholders for the Coalition. Traditional partners may include community leadership, healthcare, social services, first responders, and external experts. Non-traditional partners are equally important and may include natural leaders and champions of Veterans’ issues, Veterans and their family members, social clubs, businesses, and other veteran organizations.
- Conduct a Community Needs and Readiness Assessment: There are numerous tools for conducting needs and readiness assessments. The assessments will be critical to guide community team members in the process of creating sustainable, community-based changes that address a variety of suicide-related risk factors. Assessments will cover characterizing the need, understanding the veteran population and community, inventorying current community resources and past efforts in suicide prevention and health promotion, understanding the history of veteran relations and health services, conducting SWOT and Readiness assessments, and identifying critical partners beyond the coalition.
- Identify Intervention and Practices to Implement: Select evidence based and promising interventions and strategies from the Levels of Community Intervention or other activities not listed that are consistent with the community’s needs and opportunities. Decisions should be based on needs, priorities, and readiness of the community to carry out interventions.
- Develop an Action and Evaluation Plan: Develop a plan for implementing the strategies. The proposed action plan will also be accompanied by a plan for conducting the necessary data collection for a thorough and valid evaluation. Evaluation not only serves to identify the impacts of the program, but also is important to implementing a continuous quality improvement strategy whereby ongoing evaluation findings can lead to program improvements to maximize outcomes.
- Implement and Evaluate: Carry out the action and evaluation plan, employing iterative feedback loops to facilitate process improvement throughout implementation and evaluation. Use the information and experience from implementation and evaluation to develop a sustainability plan.
 Numerous publications and books detail the methods, advantages, and challenges of CBPR, including: Faridi Z, Grunbaum JA, Gray BS, Franks A, Simoes E. Community-based participatory research: necessary next steps. Prev Chronic Dis [serial online] 2007 Jul, Wallerstein, N., & Duran, B. (2010). Community-based participatory research contributions to intervention research: the intersection of science and practice to improve health equity. American Journal of Public Health, 100; and Newman, S. D., Andrews, J. O., Magwood, G. S., Jenkins, C., Cox, M. J., & Williamson, D. C. (2011). Peer Reviewed: Community Advisory Boards in Community-Based Participatory Research: A Synthesis of Best Processes.Preventing chronic disease, 8(3).
 Wallerstein, N. B., & Duran, B. (2006). Using community-based participatory research to address health disparities. Health Promotion Practice, 7(3), 312-323 and Trickett, E. J., Beehler, S., Deutsch, C., Green, L. W., Hawe, P., McLeroy, K., . . . Schulz, A. J. (2011). Advancing the science of community-level interventions. American Journal of Public Health, 101(8), 1410.