Aligning Research with True Consumer Needs

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
RRTC on Traumatic Brain Injury Interventions
Submitted by Margaret Brown


NIDILRR-supported research activities are intended to address consumer needs. In fact, a major section of research proposals asks the researcher to address the ways in which the proposed research is “needed.” To the degree that an intervention study addresses real needs of consumers, the better chance the results have to be adopted by consumers, i.e., translating knowledge into use.


Mount Sinai operated an RRTC from 2004-2009 that completed its scope of work in 2010. The goal of the RRTC was to develop interventions and expand knowledge on people with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

KT Activities

The RRTC used a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach to tailor research activities to the needs of individuals with TBI and members of their families. Limitations in the PAR approach adopted became clear as the relatively small sample actively involved represented their own situations well but only anecdotally could represent the needs of the population.

An augmentation to PAR was developed under other funding with the potential for utilization in developing future RRTCs and other related NIDILRR-funded research activities.  The I-CAN (Interview for Community Assessment of Need) instrument was developed and used to collect information on their needs from over 300 individuals with TBI. The resulting database provides a much stronger and focused understanding of needs among the stakeholder group of persons with TBI.  The use of such a database facilitates the job of knowledge translation by targeting research on documented need areas that reflect the values and preferences of polled samples.


The research group at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai define the design of research meeting strong needs as the first step in successful knowledge translation planning; and the I-CAN has strong potential for addressing this aspect of knowledge translation in the future.

The ICAN assessment tool is under final development and will be made available for use by others.


This example highlights an approach that may maximize the availability of consumer perspectives regarding their needs in order to focus relevant related research activities to address them. This tailoring benefits knowledge translation activities by ensuring the information produced through the research will be highly desired for uptake by the consumer or related stakeholder groups.

Contact Information

Brain Injury Research Center of Mount Sinai
5 E. 98th Street, B-15
New York, NY 10029