The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) recently announced the selection of the Morehouse School of Medicine as the awardee for a new $40 million initiative to fight COVID-19 in racial and ethnic minority, rural and socially vulnerable communities.
The Morehouse School of Medicine will enter into 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.
“The Trump Administration has made it a priority to support and empower Americans who have been most impacted by COVID-19, including minority, rural, and socially vulnerable communities,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “This new partnership between the Morehouse School of Medicine and our Office of Minority Health will work with trusted community organizations to bring information on COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and other services to the Americans who need it.”
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.
“Underlying social determinants of health and disparate burdens of chronic medical conditions are contributing to worse COVID-19-related outcomes in minority and socially vulnerable communities, and this partnership with Morehouse School of Medicine is essential to improving our overall response,” said Assistant Secretary for Health ADM Brett P. Giroir, M.D. “We’ve made important strides over the past few months in fighting the pandemic, and with Morehouse School of Medicine as our partner, we are ready to advance our efforts to support our most affected communities.”
These social determinants of health are the conditions in which we live, work, grow and age, that can include working conditions; unemployment; underemployment; access to essential goods and services such as water, sanitation and food; housing; and access to quality healthcare. Such conditions may reflect inequities experienced by disadvantaged communities, leading to poor health status and adverse health outcomes and requiring community- and systems-level responses.
“We know the power of partnerships to help us solve our most pressing public health challenges,” said U.S. Surgeon General VADM Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “This initiative has at its core the community-based organizations who know their people best and who are committed to working collaboratively to reduce health-inequities and make them healthy and safe.”
OMH announced the initiative through a funding announcement on May 1. The NIMIC initiative is expected to begin in July and the first award is for $14.6 million.
“Communities throughout the country have already done a lot of hard work to adapt and respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on racial and ethnic minority, rural and vulnerable populations,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health RADM Felicia Collins, M.D. “OMH and the Morehouse School of Medicine look forward to continue working with our communities to link them to the information, resources, healthcare and services needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”