TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama will spearhead a more than $4 million initiative to improve health care equity by helping underserved communities in the state be more resilient to health disparities, many exposed during the pandemic.
The grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health will target populations that experienced COVID-19 health disparities among high-risk and underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minorities and rural communities. The two-year project will be led by the UA Center for Economic Development.
“The pandemic has exposed the depth of health inequalities in Alabama,” said Dr. Arturo Menefee, the project leader and director of leadership development at the center. “Racially and ethnically marginalized groups have experienced a disproportionate burden from COVID-19, further exacerbating issues caused by systemic health and social inequities.”
As part of the Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative, UA faculty, staff, students and partners will work in 15 communities across the state to equip partners with necessary information to address COVID-19 issues as well as establish a support system and the capacity to deal with future challenges related to social determinants of health.
“Through the Equitable Neighborhood Initiative, we will connect neighborhoods to resources that will advance health equity and bring continuous growth to their communities, said Nisa Miranda, project co-leader and executive director of the Center for Economic Development. “By working with everyone from youths to retirees, this initiative focuses on a community’s greatest strength — its people.”
During the pandemic, the excess deaths among racial and ethnic minorities have been greater than the excess deaths among whites, according to federal data. This has not only come from deaths directly caused by COVID-19, but also by other results of the pandemic on society such as financial suffering, lack of educational assistance, delayed treatment for other health issues and limited access to mental health services.
The UA-led initiative will build, leverage and expand support for COVID-19 prevention and control among higher risk and underserved populations. The project will establish a local team coordinator, advisory group and youth council in each community to implement this initiative.
Each community will participate in capacity building workshops surrounding topics like health disparities and community engagement. The teams will devise a plan to address COVID-19 as well as focus on improving health outcomes in the neighborhood. This project will help create a network of informed and active neighbors who can advocate and help their communities better deal with health issues.
“We recognize that people are exposed to different circumstances and want to give them the resources they need to level the playing field,” Menefee said. “This initiative will provide capacity building opportunities, resources and support that will continue to serve the communities for years to come.”
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.