HCRL Awarded Two Grants to Address Covid-19 Disparities

Faculty; Public Health; Research

The Brown School’s Health Communication Research Laboratory (HCRL) has received two grants totaling $1.57 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to understand and address Covid-19 health disparities. The first study will examine how low-income workers have been affected by the pandemic, while the second will develop and test communication strategies to increase Covid-19 testing and vaccination in underserved populations.

The studies will be led by Matthew Kreuter, Kahn Family Professor of Public Health at the Brown School and Senior Scientist at the HCRL. Both studies include cross-disciplinary teams from the School of Medicine (Kia Davis and Amy McQueen), the Brown School (Charlene Caburnay, Niko Verdecias and Jennifer Wolff) and the Department of Psychology (Tom Rodebaugh). “The impact of COVID-19 on the lives and health of low-income Americans and racial and ethnic minorities has been especially severe,” Kreuter said. “These studies will help assure that public health responses meet their needs.”

The communication study, which also involves 2-1-1 helplines in CT, NC, NE, and WA, is part of NIH’s national initiative, Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations, or RADx-UP, which aims to increase access to COVID-19 testing in vulnerable populations. Both studies are 2-year projects. Funding came from the $1.1 billion CARES Act, which Congress passed to accelerate the development of technologies to address the pandemic, primarily through testing and education. The HCRL proposed a series of rapid-cycle studies to inform the messaging of underserved populations about testing and vaccination.

“The goal is to make sure underserved Americans can easily get tested and vaccinated, and we need strategies that will work. Our team will be collaborating with other researchers and community partners around the country to develop effective approaches through science,” Kreuter said. “It is exciting to be part of the solution, helping bring this pandemic to an end.”