University of South Alabama, Office of Public Relations


November 17, 2004
Contact: Jennifer Ekman at (251) 460-6360

USA Center for Healthy Communities Wins $1.2 Million NIH EXPORT Grant to address health disparities experienced by Minority, Underserved Populations

The University of South Alabama Center for Healthy Communities has won a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop community-based outreach, research and mentoring programs designed to improve the health of minority and underserved populations in the area.

The three-year grant will involve community groups, health care leaders, and USA faculty, working together to craft effective, culturally sensitive, community-based interventions for minority and underserved groups.

According to Dr. Robert Kreisberg, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the USA College of Medicine, the NIH EXPORT grant is an excellent opportunity to enhance health care services for these targeted groups.

The grant will also create an academic support program that will mentor minority elementary and high school students interested in careers in biomedical sciences, and a program to mentor minority scientists.

“We believe the research and health care innovations supported through the grant should significantly improve our understanding of health disparities and our ability to develop practices to address them,” Kreisberg said.

The NIH National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities will use the findings from the USA research to aid the development of programs to address health disparities in other communities across the country.

“This NIH grant is further recognition of the USA College of Medicine as a national resource for addressing health concerns,” Kreisberg said.

As USA uncovers research findings and develops more effective health practices, they will then be “exported” to other communities, with the ultimate aim of eliminating health disparities across the country.

Dr. Harvey White, director of the USA Center for Healthy Communities, said the grant will allow his group to focus on providing services in non-traditional settings, such as churches, as well as gauging people’s satisfaction with their providers. The study will also involve researchers and business leaders as partners in addressing the needs of these underserved groups. He said business involvement is key because health disparities represent an economic strain on the community.

Some of the grant’s innovative approaches include a church-based intervention program to promote physical activity and home monitoring of diabetes and hypertension through telemedicine links.

Dr. Martha Arrieta, associate director of the USA Center for Healthy Communities, said the two-way interaction between USA-based researchers and community-based organizations representing minority, underserved populations in the area is the landmark of the “Community-Based Participatory Research” philosophy inherent in the research and service programs to be developed through the grant.

“It’s a truly exciting opportunity for all of us who are involved to grow and learn to work in a true partnership with the community and set programs in place that are going to actually make a difference,” she said.

Rather than promoting research based on a scientific hypothesis, White said the NIH grant will focus on the immediate needs of the minority and underserved communities and their opinions on health care priorities.

“Health is not simply a medical issue,” White said. “It may be more community related. We may be surprised at what the community sees as a health issue.”

Research partners include: USA College of Medicine; USA Medical Center; USA Cancer Research Institute; USA Office of Emerging Health Technologies; Mostellar Medical Center; Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce; Mobile County Health Department; Franklin Primary Health Center; Mobile Community Action; and others.

White said a unique aspect of the grant was this community focus and a willingness to listen to minority and underserved populations to set the research agenda.

“Our goal is not to tell them what they need but to talk to them and see how we can move forward together,” he said.

Kreisberg will serve as principal investigator for the grant. White will be co-principal investigator and coordinator of community outreach and education. Arrieta will serve as co-principal investigator of the research core.

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