Led by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), a coalition of 11 academic institutions and their community partners across California were afforded the opportunity a couple months ago to development of a statewide community-engaged approach to addressing COVID-19 among populations that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. California, one of the most diversified populations in the United States, is home to large Hispanic and Asian populations as well as sizable Black communities. Interior areas from the Sierra foothills and Central Valley to the Inland Empire also are home to underserved, socioeconomic challenged white populations; the elderly across the state face far higher risk due to the pandemic. To help bring more research engagement to targeted communities the group of 11 research centers, again led by UCLA, were granted $4.1 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the statewide program. Known as the COVID-19 California Alliance (STOP COVID-19 CA), this is part of a broader NIH Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities. This partnership represents a joint effort among five UC medical campuses, two additional UC campuses and four other leading academic institutions in California.
The Program: Opening Up Difficult to Reach Communities for Vaccination & Treatment
Each site within STOP COVID-19 CA will rely on locally informed approaches, leveraging the unique partnership networks and insights within each community to address local problems. In Los Angeles, for instance, investigators plan to run in-depth virtual focus groups with multiethnic communities to identify barriers and challenges to inclusive vaccine development and vaccination. Another project would assess racial and ethnic attitudes among high-risk veterans that might prevent them from accepting a potential vaccine and would subsequently develop messaging to encourage vaccination among this group. The lessons learned from these efforts will help identify opportunities for application statewide and nationally.
NIH Community Engagement Alliance research teams in 11 states will focus on COVID-19 awareness and education research, especially among Black, Latino and Indigenous populations, which account for over half of all reported cases in the United States, said Dr. Keith Norris, a professor of medicine and vice chair of the department of medicine’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the Geffen School of Medicine.
Principal Investigator Point of View
Dr. Arleen Brown, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, co-leads the Community Engagement and Research Program at the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute. She informed the world at the onset of the effort: “This important collaboration will include 11 major institutions with highly innovative community partnered research projects.” Dr. Brown emphasized that “these institutions reside and work in diverse communities with high rates of COVID-19 infections and complications across the state. The community input makes all the difference in these projects.”
This goal of this effort is to reduce disparities in knowledge of COVID-19 across the threat in addition to boost participation representing all Californians, including those that represent those considered traditionally underrepresented populations.
STOP COVID-19 CA is closely aligned with translational science centers on eight of the coalition’s campuses that are funded by NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards, or CTSAs. The CTSAs will provide access to research resources, including biostatistical support and expertise in conducting studies of health disparities and community-partnered research. In addition, three campuses are funded through the NIH Resource Centers in Minority Institutions, or RCMI, program.