KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The University of Kansas Medical Center announced Wednesday that it has been chosen as one of 32 institutions nationwide to receive a grant from the National Institutes of Health through the RADx-UP program to support projects designed to rapidly implement COVID-19 testing strategies in populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
KU Medical Center will partner with community efforts in 10 Kansas counties, six rural (Crawford, Finney, Lyon, Riley, Saline and Seward) and four urban (Douglas, Johnson, Sedgwick and Wyandotte).
The goal is to establish community-led, health department-linked Local Health Equity Action Teams in 10 counties in Kansas disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and provide them with the training and resources to identify and respond to COVID-related inequities in their communities.
“We know that underserved minority and rural communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID, leading to more serious illnesses and more deaths,” said Edward Ellerbeck, chair of the Department of Population Health and professor at the KU School of Medicine and one of the study’s co-principal investigators. “The idea here is to partner with communities and local health departments to help address inequities, beginning with inequities in testing, and the vast majority of these funds will go into these counties and directly into these at-risk communities.”
“It is critical that all Americans have access to rapid, accurate diagnostics for COVID-19, especially underserved and vulnerable populations who are bearing the brunt of this disease,” said NIH director Francis S. Collins. “The RADx-UP program will help us better understand and alleviate the barriers to testing for those most vulnerable and reduce the burden of this disease.”
KU Medical Center researchers will conduct a needs assessment in each county and then partner with communities in each county to develop messages and strategies specific to their community. Working with the Local Health Equity Action Teams, KU researchers will take their cues from the communities.
“In some cases, we will support what they’re already doing. In some cases, we will complement what they’re doing,” said Mariana Ramirez, director of JUNTOS Center for Advancing Latino Health in the Department of Population Health at KU Medical Center and one of eight co-investigators on the grant. “It is critical that we listen to each community and assist them with what is needed there.”