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NSU Partners in COVID-19 Study of Underserved Communities 

Norfolk State University is part of a $1.18 million grant to study the mistrust of COVID-19 guidance among underserved and vulnerable communities. The NSU Center of Excellence for Minority Health Disparities will work with the Eastern Virginia Medical School and Hampton University who are the co-principal investigators.

The grant is part of the National Institutes of Health Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program. It aims to support projects designed to rapidly implement COVID-19 testing strategies in populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic. These groups include African Americans, American Indians/Alaskan Natives, Latinos/Latinas, Native Hawaiians, older adults, pregnant women and those who are homeless or incarcerated.

Dr-C-Burwell_IMG_9729_pp.jpg“The NSU Center of Excellence for Minority Health Disparities is already imbedded in the community,” says Dr. Cynthia Burwell, professor and center director. “This is yet another opportunity for the Center to participate in a collaborative effort against a pandemic that has disproportionately affected the African American community.”

 The Center will study residents living in areas managed by Public Housing Authorities. The Center will assess the use of telehealth as a potential tool for addressing low-income housing residents mistrust in COVID-19 guidance and will develop community-informed strategies to address resident concerns about COVID-19 testing and to make testing more relevant to their needs.

Burwell says that minority populations face several obstacles when it comes to the pandemic. “We continue to be in service jobs that don’t allow us the luxury of staying home during the pandemic lockdowns, even when we are feeling ill,” she says. “Often times, we have chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, etc., a lack of health insurance and mistrust in the healthcare system.” 

Since the start of the pandemic, Burwell has worked to educate the community about COVID-19 through the Center’s long-standing relationship with the Healthy Churches Coalition of Hampton Roads and the Governor’s COVID-19 Health Equity Workgroup.