New frontiers: Expanding health equity research

Jul 20, 2021 | Kanaaz Pereira, Connect Moderator | @kanaazpereira

Mayo Clinic's Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research, now in its third year, is bustling with activity ― constantly innovating to promote health equity in all aspects of health care and research. The center was formed in 2019 by merging the Office of Health Disparities Research and the Office for Community Engagement in Research.

Monica Albertie, operations manager, acknowledges the many definitions of health equity but says her favorite is one of the simplest. "Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity and freedom to 'be well,' whatever the definition of wellness means to them."

The Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research is a hub for a team of expert clinicians, scientists, and program administrators. With operations at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Florida, and Rochester, the center continues to build its team. The center's research activities are tied to the results of Mayo Clinic's Community Health Needs Assessments, which is conducted in the communities Mayo serves.

Chyke Doubeni, M.B.B.S., leads the center as director. "We've made great strides in cultivating research and programs to eliminate health disparities and enhance community capabilities," Dr. Doubeni says. "Our goal is to accelerate the impact of Mayo's resources and scientific discoveries in under-resourced rural and urban communities through translational research. One of our most important objectives is to increase the inclusiveness of our clinical studies to expand the benefit of discoveries to as many patients as possible."

"We recently welcomed Folakemi Odedina, Ph.D., an internationally recognized research and academic leader, as the inaugural associate director for Health Equity Research and Community Engagement at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida," says Dr. Doubeni. "Her expertise will accelerate our efforts in promoting health equity and inclusive research."

Collaborating with community organizations

The Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research collaborates with community organizations to ensure that research addresses community health priorities. The center is working to strengthen partnerships to improve access to evidence-based interventions and enhance capacity for research with priority populations, including ongoing efforts to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The center participates in the national Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) against COVID-19 disparities, which is supported by the NIH.

Working across Mayo

  • Arizona
    Mayo Clinic is helping lead CEAL research. In September 2020, researchers from Mayo Clinic, Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and the Arizona Community Health Workers Association formed the Arizona CEAL consortium. This consortium is designed to foster engagement with communities that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 29, the NIH announced $29 million in additional grants to help sustain and extend the CEAL program to more states and the University of Puerto Rico. The NIH previously awarded $12 million in September 2020 to support the program.
  • Florida
    Mayo Clinic is expanding its Wellness Rx Jacksonville Program to Arlington, Wellness Rx is a collaboration with community organizations to address health disparities in communities that are underresourced in Jacksonville. The program promotes health and wellness through education and support for unmet social needs, including food insecurity. Wellness Rx began in 2017 in the New Town Success Zone area of downtown Jacksonville and expanded into nearby Arlington in 2021.
  • Minnesota
    Black churches are trusted messengers of COVID-19 information to their communities. Early in the pandemic, Mayo researchers worked closely with Black churches on disparities in emergency preparedness and collaborated with them to disseminate culturally relevant, evidence-based health information. Feedback on program feasibility and acceptability was overwhelmingly positive from church and community leaders. This initiative was part of the Fostering African American Improvement in Total Health Program, or FAITH, which is led by LaPrincess Brewer, M.D., a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.

To learn more, visit the Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research 

Originally published on Mayo Clinic's Advancing the Science blog.



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