Community Partners’ Perspectives on Partnering With an Academic Research Team to Promote Disability-inclusive Fitness Programming

Toni Liechty, Mina Woo, Laura A. Rice, Chung Yi Chiu, Stacy Kirkpatrick, Kay Hankins, Elsie Hedgspeth, Ashley Nichols, Catherine Porter, Molly Smeltzer, Brynn Adamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Community-based fitness programs can support public health by providing access to physical activity opportunities for a vulnerable population with significant barriers. Unfortunately, programs specifically designed for people with disabilities (PWD) and staff training to promote inclusion for PWD in general population programs is limited. The current study aimed to review an on-going partnership that had formed to address this need. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess community partners’ experiences with a community–academic partnership designed to implement a fitness program for people with multiple sclerosis and also to promote inclusion for PWD in community-based fitness programming. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six community partners who had been engaged in a formal partnership with the academic institution for 2 or more years to understand partners’ experiences and perspectives about the partnership. Interviews were audio/video recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed thematically. Results: Participants described their experiences as falling into four main areas. Pre-partnership experiences (or lack thereof) shaped participants views on entering into academic partnerships. Communication and planning for mutual benefit were key to getting the partnership started. Partners identified challenges and factors for success while they were in the thick of partnership activities. Finally, evaluation allowed for assessment and improvement of the partnership itself and its ultimate goals. Conclusions: Findings suggest that academic–community partnerships can be ideal for promoting inclusion for PWD and highlight insights that can be used in the development of future partnerships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-437
Number of pages9
JournalProgress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023


  • Fitness centers
  • disability
  • exercise
  • inclusion
  • leisure-time physical activity
  • recreation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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