Georgia State University Receives $1.3m to Study What’s Stopping Atlanta’s Black Community from Greater Participation in COVID-19 Research

Georgia State University Receives $1.3m to Study What’s Stopping Atlanta’s Black Community from Greater Participation in COVID-19 Research

Georgia State University’s School of Public Health received a two-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) program known as RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP), to help better understand the barriers and motivations for participating in COVID-19 research among Black communities in Atlanta. As part of the study, the team at Georgia State University will investigate what elements contribute to Black people not participating in COVID-19 serostudies, which survey a large number of people for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibody through a minimally invasive test, such as a finger prick. A well known challenge for decades, the research industry, at least in the United States, struggles to win the trust of ethnic and racial minority groups. Lots of funds have gone into studying why but ultimately a lack of trust in government and healthcare institutions could represent a prominent challenge. But with this demographic group disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, getting to the bottom of what’s stopping participation is imperative to ensure greater inclusion in vaccine rollout for example.

Historic distrust not only of medical research but perhaps of broader healthcare and government institutions among Black people is well-known and documented. Barriers to participation, reports the Georgia State News Hub, aren’t really known but could include a range of factors from a lack of perceived benefits to racism exacerbated by the U.S. political climate. TrialSite conducted a survey of African Americans in southeast Texas on the subject of participation in clinical trials and the results can be seen here.

A Real Problem Grows with COVID-19

Although Black people account for 20 percent of diagnosed SRS-CoV-2 infections and 22 percent of associated deaths, they represent 13 percent of the U.S. population. Because SARS-CoV-2 testing is limited among minority populations, infections in Black communities are less likely to be diagnosed relative to infections among white persons. This lack of data makes it more difficult to know the extent of how COVID-19 disproportionately affects Black populations across the United States.

Principle investigator Bradley emphasized, “By better understanding barriers and motivations for participation, we hope to make COVID-19 research more inclusive of Black communities.” She continued, “Increasing representation is critical to improving the acceptability and effectiveness of other public health strategies, such as vaccine rollout, for minority communities with the highest risk.”

Community Participation

Wisely, Georgia State University set up a community advisory board for participation in this important study. This board includes leaders from professional, faith-based and health organizations serving Black communities in Atlanta to help infuse the culturally relevant guidance for this study.

What is RADx-UP?

This program aims to better understand COVID-19 testing patterns among underserved and vulnerable populations, strengthen the data on disparities in infection rates, disease progression and outcomes and develop strategies to reduce the disparities in COVID-19 testing. It is part of the NIH’s broader Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative.

As it turns out, Georgia State is one of 55 institutions that received an NIH award through the RADx-UP program to support projects to rapidly implement COVID-19 testing strategies in populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The effort is led by co-principal investigators Dr. Richard Rothenberg, an infectious disease expert and Regents’ Professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences; Dr. Dennis Reidy, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy & Behavioral Sciences; and Dr. Veronica Newton, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology. The team includes Dázon Dixon Diallo, the founder and president of SisterLove, Inc., and Herschel Smith, a Ph.D. student in the School of Public Health.