Columbia River Gorge

Chelsea Ruder - OHSU Community Research Liaison

New Gorge Liaison Region Map

Chelsea is located in the Columbia River Gorge and her region includes Hood River, Wasco, Sherman and Gilliam counties

If you would like to contact Chelsea please email or call 514-993-8323

Headshot of Chelsea Ruder Columbia River Gorge Liaison

Chelsea's role on the Community Engaged Research Team

  • Identify areas of need and opportunities for research related support to move initiatives forward that will improve the overall health and wellness of the Columbia River Gorge Region
  • Provide support and develop collaborations with community partners and research experts to identify, design and conduct health research
  • Support local agencies in building research related skills while addressing areas of need related to the Community Health Improve Plan (CHIP)
  • Work strategically and collaboratively with specific champions in the community, including the Collective Impact Health Specialist and Learning Specialist
  • Support the work of the Community Health Advocacy and Research Alliance (CHARA)
  • Support OHSU academic collaborators by engaging stakeholders and community members.  Provide county level data and knowledge about the region, facilitate partnerships and projects  and data collection  (e.g. focus groups, interviews, surveys). 

Columbia River Gorge Regional Coalition

The Community Health Advocacy and Research Alliance (CHARA)

CHARA is a partnership between community members, patients, local organizations, academic staff and researchers. CHARA aims to work collaboratively with those groups to identify, design and conduct research to answer questions that matter in the Columbia River Gorge region. To do this, CHARA supports local organizations in identifying opportunities to turn challenges or questions into research applications while supporting community members and organizations in shared learnings, as well as, introducing them to researchers and vice versa. CHARA values the established networks and collaborations of academic and community partners/members and aims to support research and program evaluation to optimize the health and well-being of the community and its members.

Mission: Community Health Advocacy & Research Alliance (CHARA) identifies, develops, and conducts health research to answers questions that matter in the Columbia Gorge region.

Vision: We bring together community members, patients, health care professionals, and researchers to collect and generate good research questions in order to learn how to foster health in our community and to share what we learn with others.

Project snapshot

Bright yellow orchard in the Columbia River Gorge area with rolling green hills behind

Building Capacity To Improve Health In The Columbia River Gorge

This project is a collaboration with twelve community partners, the Community Research Liaison and Learning Specialist. 

Through a unique and novel duo partnership between the Community Research Liaison and Learning Specialist, gaps and barriers in local data collection efforts were identified. This unique collaboration supports data-driven decision making and evaluation efforts in the Gorge. 

Twelve community partners were identified to participate in a local effort to better understand how data is collected in order to strengthen data collection processes and build skills within the community as it relates to research, data collection/analysis and build on best practices to improve local health and wellbeing. This unique collaboration is funded by OHSU OCTRI (Community Research Liaison), United Way and Ford Family Foundation (Learning Specialist). 

It is important to understand how community partners collect data and identify gaps/barriers within their data collection processes in order to build upon the skills, align efforts, plan for proper evaluation and secure additional funding to support community projects that address areas on the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). A long term outcome of this collaboration is to identify common metrics and provide sustainable research development and support to address local health disparities. 

  • Chelsea Ruder Columbia Gorge Community Research Liaison, Oregon Health & Science University
  • Alicia Swift, Learning Specialist, Swift Consulting
  • Paul Lindberg, Collective Impact Health Specialist, collaboration with United Way of the Columbia Gorge through a grant from Providence Hood River Hospital
  • 4 Rivers Early Learning Hub 
  • Columbia Gorge Health Council
  • Gorge Grown Food Network
  • Gorge Resiliency Network
  • Hood River Health Department
  • Hood River Prevention Office
  • Mid-Columbia Housing Authority
  • North Central Public Health District
  • One Community Health
  • The Next Door
  • United Way Columbia Gorge
  • YouthThink Foundation (Learning Specialist)

The Community Research Liaison and Learning Specialist conducted needs assessment interviews with all twelve community partners. The intent of these interviews were to better understand the local projects, how they collect data, identify barriers they are facing in implementing projects effectively. These interviews also honed in on specific data collection practices in order to build a matrix that will support programs in using their data effectively and to secure additional funding. The overall takeaways these interviews uncovered: 

  • a better understanding of community partner needs
  • that data sharing is important and necessary in order to move their projects forward
  • the lack of resources to properly implement projects
  • the need to share their story effectively
  • support in securing funding 
  • the need for more local training opportunities

 Involvement of CHARA and OCTRI will help build relationships between local partners and academic experts, identify opportunities to turn challenges into research questions and to help inform best practices for health care delivery.

The work of the Community Research Liaison and Learning Specialist have informed the need for more resources and expertise as it relates to program evaluation, data collection/analysis, dissemination and storytelling.  All 12 community partners had the opportunity to review a list of proposed training/workshop topics and select the top four they would like to learn more about. The top four selected trainings are:

  • Program evaluation
  • Data collection, analysis and dissemination
  • Storytelling using qualitative data
  • Strategic planning

Through upcoming focused workshops presented by staff within OCTRI Evaluation Core, community partners will build their skills as it relates to those topics and research best practices in order to implement current and future projects related to the CHIP, Clinical Advisory Panel priority areas, or other social determinants of health that affect local community members and organizations.

Very green, western area of the Columbia River Gorge with rock outcroppings
Eastern, agricultural area along the Columbia River Gorge with big boulders in the foreground
Eastern, rocky region of the Columbia River Gorge with rocky river bank and the river