NIH funds community-engagement research alliance to support communities disproportionally affected by COVID-19

Doctor in a mask talking to patient in a mask about her medical record during COVID-19

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has affected millions of people living in the United States. To support minority communities and areas disproportionally affected by the novel coronavirus, the National Institutes of Health announced it is awarding $12 million to 11 states through a NIH Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities program. African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and American Indian communities, communities that account for more than half of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., will receive expanded access to COVID-19 programs, including preventive resources and clinical trials for vaccines and treatment.

“Since communities of color have been particularly affected, and also historically underrepresented in clinical research, it is essential that we encourage people to join COVID-19 research studies,” Gary Gibbons, M.D., the director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, said in a release. “That’s why NIH is partnering with messengers who live, work, and worship in the same communities where the disease has caused the highest rates of sickness and death. In the middle of a pandemic, people need to hear familiar, trusted voices they know are advocating for their health and safety.”

The goal of the community-engagement research program is to help communities disproportionally affected by the pandemic rapidly respond to COVID-19 and alleviate health inequities. The states include Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

“Addressing health disparities affecting racial and ethnic minority populations has long been a priority for NIH,” Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIH, shared in a release. “The burden of the COVID-19 pandemic borne by diverse communities, especially those that include Blacks and Latinos, makes clear the urgent need for treatments and vaccines that are effective for all Americans. Inclusive research that reflects the entire population is essential to this goal.”