Research to Make an Impact

The reduction of health inequities in minorities and economically deprived groups is an overarching societal goal. To that end, the Research Core, a division of the USA Center for Healthy Communities, seeks to expand the capacity and competence of the CHC’s Center of Excellence as a leader in research and dissemination of outcomes that address minority health and health disparities. Key to the Research Core’s strategy is its focus on building collaborative relationships for further implementation of Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR).

The Research CORE sponsors the Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG) as a multidisciplinary assembly of faculty, students, and staff with a vision “to become an integral facilitator in eliminating health disparities through partnerships with the community.” Currently, the HDRG is embarked in a CBPR dissemination effort to consolidate and expand CBPR efforts at the university and the community. It works to:

  • Educate interested faculty and community organizations on CBPR
  • Bring awareness to ongoing CBPR efforts
  • Disseminate this type of research at local, state and regional levels

As a part of the Center for Excellence Funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Research Core also supports three major research projects:

Project 1: Sentinel Surveillance to Monitor Progress Towards Health Equity (PI: Dr. Martha Arrieta) seeks to develop and implement a surveillance system to capture the information necessary to monitor progress toward health equity for health disparate populations. Key project components include

  • Community Advisory Group to assist in developing various aspects of the research
  • Development and testing of survey tools and procedures to capture primary information on health status, health knowledge, and access to care among population sub-groups experiencing  health inequity.
  • Embedding community members into the research team as Research Apprentices.

Project 2: The Impact of Labor Force/Labor Market Status on Access to Health Care (PI: Dr. Ken Hudson) examines how the employment and labor market status of individual family members affect the family’s ability to obtain health insurance and health care. This study examines the impact of having a “good job vs. bad job” on health and focuses on the poorest neighborhoods of Mobile.

Project 3: Heat Shock Protein 27 (HSP27) as a Marker of Atherosclerosis (PI: Dr. Bill Gerthoffer) addresses the lack of accurate predictive biomarkers of plaque instability, particularly in health disparate populations. This is a translational research project done in collaboration with the Division of Cardiology, which hopes to establish a method to identify those at risk for heart disease at an earlier point than currently available. If successful, interventions may be started to prevent heart disease rather than having to treat heart disease after its development.

Each of these projects will be explored further in future editions of this newsletter.