As COVID-19 cases surge in the El Paso, Texas region (they are now ten times higher than they were in September), the University of Texas at El Paso received funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help with the expansion of COVID-19 testing efforts targeting at-risk populations facing disproportionate impact form the pandemic and recent surge. El Paso, an overwhelmingly Hispanic city on the Mexican border, includes rural communities outside of the city such as Fabens, Horizon City, and Socorro referred to as “distant testing islands in the county” reported Robert Kirken, PhD, dean of UTEP’s College of Science and Principal Investigator for the NIH grant. Professor Kirken continued that this support will help the local health care professionals better learn “how to reach out to” at-risk populations in a bid to convince them to come in and get tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection. This program is part of a bigger umbrella program called the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostic Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program to support outreach and testing strategies for minority and underrepresented populations from Hispanics to Blacks, Native Americans, Asians & Pacific Islanders, and others.
Use of Promotoras
This program depends heavily on the use of promotoras also known as community health workers with the mandate to disproportionately reach out to impacted populations. Conducting a series of surveys tracking the risk factors individuals are facing, the goal is to not only accelerate COVID-19 tests and treatments but also prepare this demographic for ongoing health outreach.
NIH National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
A much larger NIMHD grant is actually the primary federal grant associated with this effort meant to benefit the Border Biomedical Research Center (BBRC), supporting to ongoing and improving outreach and engagement with prominent underrepresented groups. Part of UTEP, the goal of BBRC is to develop, grow and sustain the extant infrastructure and programs, as well as recruit, train and develop cancer scientists and health practitioners to promise high quality cancer research and to translate the findings back to the community.
El Paso Becoming a Research Hub
In parallel this region continues to expand its foundation for a future clinical trials sector El Paso’s Medical Center of the Americas Foundation (MCA) now emerges as a nascent research hub as the group has secured the funding and support to support a public-private regional partnership. In a bid to bolster research activities in the region, a number of research-based organizations, including TrialSite News, recently announced a collaboration with MCA to support the region’s clinical research hub aspirations.