CoSAGE at a Glance

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“Science and citizens should not occupy separate worlds;

by strengthening the role of citizens in science, science too will be strengthened.”

(Saha & Hurlburt, 2012)

CoSAGE is a community based health research project in mid-Michigan that brings together the citizen and science to tackle challenging and complex health problems. The goals of CoSAGE are to learn how hereditary, lifestyle, and environmental factors play a role in a person’s health and wellness so that we can develop strategies to improve health and well-being that are tailored to the community. CoSAGE brings together the strengths of a team of Michigan State University researchers with the strengths of the residents and organizations of three rural communities to discover factors that contribute to common and high-impact health problems within the community and to turn those discoveries into meaningful and effective strategies to improve health and well-being across generations.

CoSAGE builds upon a longstanding partnership between the villages of Pewamo, Fowler, and Westphalia and Michigan State University researchers that was initially started to learn about the genetic causes of congenital deafness. This research began in 1998 and became known as the Deafness Research Across Mid-Michigan (DREAM-M) study, a research study that continues today. The DREAM-M study used many strategies to involve the residents of PFW in the research process, including creating two community advisory committees: the Research Advisory Committee and the Ethics Committee. These committees continue today and remain a critical foundation of the CoSAGE partnership.

The CoSAGE Project expands upon the strong community partnership developed during the DREAM-M study, by using a community-based participatory research approach. A community-based, participatory research approach provides a gateway to citizen science that helps assure the research conducted through CoSAGE is based in the community, driven by community needs, and results in health interventions that are tailored to the community.

The CoSAGE Project officially launched in the summer of 2009, when Dr. Brian Schutte and Dr. Debra Schutte joined the faculty at MSU. The first phase of the CoSAGE Project is to determine the common and high impact health problems in our partner community so that our future research is driven by community need. We are accomplishing this goal by interviewing community leaders across the three villages and by inviting community members to participate in the Community Assessment and Research Participant Registry. This key phase of CoSAGE provides a valuable description of the community and an efficient way to notify community members of other CoSAGE research studies. We are using the information we learn in this early phase of CoSAGE to build and prioritize a community research agenda.  The CoSAGE Project may have multiple research studies underway at the same time, each contributing to future research studies. The ultimate goal is to turn the information we learn in the early phase of CoSAGE into individual and community health promotion and disease prevention interventions that influence lifestyle and environment to improve health and quality of life. The greater the involvement of individual community members in these research studies today, the greater our potential impact on the health of future generations.

The CoSAGE partnership is local, but the implications for health are not. Through the continuing research on the genetic causes of congenital deafness (DREAM-M) to our early work in CoSAGE, the impact of CoSAGE extends beyond our local community partners to the broader US and world community.

Read or watch "Faculty conversations: Debra and Brian Schutte"

Saha, K., & Hurlburt, J.B. (January 4, 2012). Opinion: Occupy Science? Biomedical research can learn from citizen science, which is grounded in strong relationships with study participants. The Scientist. Retrieved at