Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) was awarded a new $40 million grant to fight COVID-19 in racial and ethnic minority, rural and socially vulnerable communities by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Morehouse’s Office of Minority Health, the institution announced Tuesday.

MSM was selected to participate in a cooperative agreement with OMH “to lead the initiative to coordinate a strategic network of national, state, territorial, tribal, and local organizations to deliver COVID-19-related information to communities hardest hit by the pandemic,” according to the agency.

The initiative – the National Infrastructure for Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 within Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities (NIMIC) – is a three-year project designed to work with community-based organizations across the nation to deliver education and information on resources to help fight the pandemic. The information network will strengthen efforts to link communities to COVID-19 testing, healthcare, and social services and to best share and implement effective response, recovery, and resilience strategies.

“This work will create the opportunity to measure the effectiveness of interventions being deployed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. The results of which should lead to a new-found knowledge base to better prepare for and respond to future pandemics, especially in vulnerable communities,” MSM President and Dean Valerie Montgomery Rice said. “The adoption and adaptation of these interventions to vulnerable communities create a new paradigm for the creation of health equity.”

Morehouse School of Medicine has been at the forefront of anticipating and responding to the needs of vulnerable communities who have traditionally suffered the worst health outcomes during pandemics and other disasters, Montgomery Rice said.  To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minority, rural, and socially vulnerable populations, MSM will establish the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network (NCRN).

Dr. Dominic Mack, MD, and Daniel E. Dawes, J.D., director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, will co-lead NCRN.

“This powerful, public-private partnership comes at a critical time as more than one million Americans confront COVID-19. Communities of color have been among the hardest hit,” said Mack, who serves as director of the National Center for Primary Care and professor of Family Medicine at MSM. “By working collaboratively at the community level to advance health equity, we can make a meaningful difference in health outcomes.”

“We understand that there are specific social determinants and existing health disparities that contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus,” Dawes added. “This new partnership between the Morehouse School of Medicine and the Office of Minority Health will bring vital public health information on COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and other services to the Americans who need it most.”

These social determinants of health include working conditions, unemployment and underemployment, access to clean water, affordable housing, transportation, and quality healthcare. Those inequities require both community- and systems-level responses. The Office of Minority Health is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities.

Morehouse School of Medicine (Courtesy)

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