ARRA Grants Build Research Capacity & Best Practices in Georgia Communities

Communities in the metro-Atlanta area and Albany were part of the research process from the very beginning, through grants awarded by the Atlanta Clinical & Translational Science Institute’s (ACTSI) Community Engagement Research Program (CERP) to local community-based organizations (CBOs).  

Using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding the ACTSI was able to support three CBOs out of 29 applications received. Two CBOs in metro-Atlanta and one in medically underserved Southwest Georgia received $60,000 in grant support from the CERP to build capacity and skills to conduct research in collaboration with academic researchers at Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine and Georgia Institute of Technology. The Collaborative Research Capacity Grants Program was designed to engage community organizations in the research process to speed the translation of research from academic findings into practical application.  

According to Michelle Kegler, DrPH, MPH, CERP co-program director, Emory Prevention Research Center director and professor, Behavioral Sciences and Health Education Department, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, “The Collaborative Research Capacity Grants Program seeks to bridge a gap between the academy and the community. These grants pair community organizations with academic researchers around questions and topics of interest to both parties. By making these matches, we can ensure the resulting research projects are answering questions of interest to the community.”  

The grantee organizations are:

  • Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative (ALHI), based in Atlanta, is improving the health and well-being of lesbians and other members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community through education, advocacy, support and access to care. ALHI’s focus is access to care and preventive healthcare for disease areas such as cancer in African-American Lesbians. The initiative was paired with Cam Escoffery, PhD, MPH, CHES, assistant professor, Behavioral Sciences and Health Education Department, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University.

  • BPSOS, located in Doraville, empowers, organizes and equips Vietnamese individuals and communities in their pursuit of liberty and dignity. The research topic is identifying the motivational and prohibitive factors that shape Hepatitis B screening, vaccination and treatment behaviors. This group was matched with Paula Frew, MPH, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, director of Community Research and assistant professor, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, Emory University.

  • Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, in Albany, provides clinical research capabilities to the communities of Southwest Georgia, and the research topic is increasing patient understanding of informed consent for clinical studies. The hospital is working with Anne L. Dunlop, MD, MPH assistant professor and Preventive Medicine Residency Program director, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine.

This program also trains the academic researcher on how to work with CBOs and principles of Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR). This program facilitates partnerships, helps overcome barriers and creates sustainable collaborative research that improves community health. “As CBPR suggests, the relationship with BPSOS did not end with the ARRA Supplement funding. They took one of my evaluation courses and my department participated in two of their community health fairs,” said Dr. Frew.

Both ALHI and BPSOS applied and were awarded $25,000 in Legacy Funds through the CDC-funded REACH initiative for additional activities, bolstered by their partnerships with researchers. The capacity-building grants were made possible as part of a $600,000 grant award from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health, issued under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  

“I’ve maintained a relationship with ALHI and our collaboration is ongoing. CBPR is an impressive relationship building mechanism. My department continues to serve as a research resource for ALHI and we reach out to them for student projects,” said Dr. Escoffery. “We help them create small programmatic surveys, develop ideas for data collection for future funding opportunities and share research best practices. We are working on a publication and seeking NIH funding to continue this research project.”  

The CERP is a core component of the ACTSI, a collaborative effort of Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) and Georgia Institute of Technology. The CERP, co-led by the MSM and Emory Prevention Research Centers (supported by the CDC), aims to support community-university research partnerships, to facilitate community input into university research and to increase health research in community settings that is both responsive and relevant to the health needs of the community.