Nashville, Tenn.—Meharry Medical College Investigator Dr. Paul Juarez will lead the Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities (CEAL) Team in Tennessee through a new research initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Dr. Paul Juarez, Meharry Medical College

NIH recently announced a $12 million award for outreach and engagement efforts to racial and ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. States that received CEAL funding are Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. The CEAL research teams will leverage established relationships between NIH-funded researchers and local community-engaged leaders in each state to help reach underserved communities that otherwise might not have access to COVID-19 resources.

CEAL teams will be comprised of researchers and trusted community partners through a coordinated effort. Their aim is to reduce the impact of COVID-19, especially among African Americans, Latinos, American Indians — populations that account for over half of all reported cases in the United States.

Nationally, the CEAL teams will focus on developing an evidence base of effective COVID-19 preventive interventions among vulnerable populations, especially among African Americans, Latinos, American Indians. They also will promote and facilitate the inclusion and participation of these groups in vaccine and therapeutic clinical trials and prepare communities for the vaccine once it becomes available.

In Tennessee, CEAL funding will support the establishment of regional, community-engaged COVID-19 research partnerships in west, central, and east Tennessee to tailor health promotion messages and strategies that promote COVID-19 prevention, testing, participation in COVID-19 vaccine trials, and vaccine readiness, once vaccines become available. In addition, a research intervention will be undertaken which tests the effectiveness of strategies that address social inequities compared to those that address health education only.

Dr. Juarez is nationally recognized for his research in health disparities, particularly in the areas of injury prevention, the effects of the environment on health, and the use of community based participatory research methods.

“In this age of misinformation and mistrust it is critically important that racial and ethnic minority and other underserved communities receive accurate information from trusted sources so they can make informed decisions about COVID-19 prevention, testing and treatment,” Juarez said. “We will work with our community partners in each region of the state to ensure racial and ethnic minorities and other vulnerable populations most affected by the pandemic COVID-19 have access to culturally informed information and opportunities to prevent the spread of the virus.

For more information about CEAL, visit the NIH COVID-19 communities page.

The CEAL principal investigators and institutions are:

Mona N. Fouad, M.D., M.P.H.
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Sairam Parthasarathy, M.D.
University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson

Arleen F. Brown, M.D., Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles

Olveen Carrasquillo, M.D., M.P.H
University of Miami

Tabia Henry Akintobi, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta

Marie A. Krousel-Wood, M.D.
Tulane University, New Orleans

Erica Marsh, M.D.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Caroline Compretta, Ph.D.
University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson

Anissa I. Vines, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Paul Juarez, Ph.D.
Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee

Jamboor Vishwanatha, Ph.D.
University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth

Linda Squiers, Ph.D.
Technical Lead, TASC
RTI International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina