HomeOur ProjectsCommunity Impact in Rural Nebraska

Community Impact in Rural Nebraska


As part of the REACH Lab, UNL’s Minority Health Disparities Initiative’s Community Impact (MHDI CI) engages stakeholders to identify critical knowledge and service gaps in rural community health disparities.

MHDI works directly with communities to develop collaborative transdisplinary research teams. Together we build innovative CI projects that address these identified gaps. Our rigorous mixed-methods approach combine social science quantitative research strategies with community based participatory research. We facilitate community relationship building for health disparities researchers who seek to have an impact on the communities that their research serves. Throughout all of our projects, we work to translate transdisplinary health disparities research into identifiable community impact. To learn more about our Community Impact projects, please visit the MHDI website for more information: mhdi.unl.edu.

Recent Blog Posts for Community Impact in Rural Nebraska

Gladys Godinez, a participant in the Minority Health Disparities Initiative's  Health Voice Vision project, was recently interviewed by Chuck Schroeder, the Directer of

The REACH lab's Minority Health Disparities Initiative (MHDI) project has partnered with other community organizations on an exhibit at the Nebraska

UNL's Quantitative Life Sciences Initiative and Holland Computing Center hosted the first-ever Datapalooza this November. Datapalooza was a competitive data

Professor Colleen Syron, MHDI Faculty Affiliate, asked design students in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts to create

  This volume of collected essays is a product of the 2016 Minority Health Disparities Initiative writing retreat at the University

This week, NPR's "All Things Considered" aired a story on rural opioid problems. Dr. Dombrowski was interviewed as part of this

Project Details


UNL’s Minority Health Disparities Initiative’s Community Impact mission was launched in July, 2015. Our core funding is provided by Tobacco Settlement Funds. We are currently soliciting internal and external funding to support innovative initiatives driven by our transdisciplinary research community collaborations.


Kirk Dombrowski leads the UNL’s Minority Health Disparities Initiative’s Community Impact mission with the help of Kim Gocchi Carrasco. MHDI CI is building transdisciplinary research alliances between UNL departments, University of Nebraska campuses, and community stakeholders.

Engaging Community Knowledge
In July 2015, UNL’s Minority Health Disparities Initiative launched our Community Impact (MHDI CI) mission. Our first step was to engage a wide range of community stakeholders and asked them how we could best serve them in their efforts to create healthy, growing, and diverse communities. There were three clear messages from these informational meetings:
  • To build trust in communities of diversity, they need to know that we are committed to understanding their long-term needs. This has meant spending time in communities: using interpersonal engagement to show that we are invested in knowing and supporting our community partners.
  • We learned that our efforts must be local; there is no one-fits-all approach in rural Nebraska. Despite common talk about shrinking infrastructures and changing demographics, these issues are affecting different places in different ways.  
  • The problems are complex—or “multifactorial” in academic language. They require interdisciplinary and inter-institutional research teams to help community partners if we hope to produce measurable long-term impacts on health disparities in the state.
Two logos developed for local engagement project. Designer: Aubrey Samson, UNL Graphic Design Undergraduate
In order to address these long-term needs, the MHDI CI has launched a statewide effort focusing on three trajectories:
  1. Building Community Trust – bridging Nebraska’s communities of diversity requires interpersonal engagement—a consistent NU presence that positively impacts people’s daily lives. MHDI is invested in supporting communities seeking to build their own capacity to address minority health disparities. Our robust project portfolio reflects our commitment to building long-term working partnerships. Every day in some way, we are increasing the integrity of MHDI, and the University of Nebraska, as a trustworthy institutional collaborator at the street level.
  2. Facilitating Inter-institutional Transdisciplinary Teams – working across disciplines and institutions presents a wide variety of time-consuming challenges. MHDI does the leg work of team building so that our researchers can stay focused on translating their expertize into the academic currency that keeps NU as a world leader in research. We take responsibility for providing the institutional infrastructures necessary to collaborate successfully across disciplines, departments, and campuses. Our work includes comprehensive project management, faculty mentoring, and grant development. Current partners come from UNMC (including outlying campuses), UNO, UNK, and UNL units from both City and East Campus.
  3. Translating Research into Community Capacity Building – addressing minority health disparities involves a long-term commitment to our community partners to ensure that they develop the institutional infrastructure needed for sustainable change. Working at the institutional level, our MHDI facilitators begin by providing the cross-community and cross-institution links needed for research project development. As effective communication patterns emerge, these structures are documented and modularized, resulting in strategic plans for ongoing community capacity that can then be “handed off” to our community partners. Here research facilitates community capacity and results in structures that can later be re-engaged for subsequent MHDI research initiatives.

MHDI understands our work is ambitious and will only be achieved by establishing a solid network of invested community collaborators across the state of Nebraska, as well as across the UNL campuses and the entire University of Nebraska statewide system.