Georgia CTSA Leader Heads NIH’s Georgia CEAL to Address COVID-19 Disparities

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For outreach and engagement efforts in ethnic and racial minority communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic, the National Institutes of Health has created the Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities initiative. NIH selected teams in 11 states to focus on counties with underserved communities to facilitate the inclusion and participation in COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic clinical trials.

In Georgia, researchers at Morehouse School of Medicine are being led by Principal Investigator Tabia Henry Akintobi, PhD, MPH, Professor of Community Health and Preventive Medicine, Associate Dean of Community Engagement, and Director of the Prevention Research Center; and Georgia CTSA Community Engagement Program Director. CEAL is leveraging Georgia CTSA’s strong community partnerships and long-standing community-engaged research efforts.

Dr. Akintobi remarks, “The Georgia Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities will strategically leverage existing community partners, leaders, and knowledge holders, community resources, and local service delivery settings to enhance COVID-19 education, health communication, and outreach. Central to these efforts of promotion and facilitation is the inclusion of racial and ethnic populations in clinical trials reflective of the populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed striking morbidity and mortality disparities among racial and ethnic minority communities, and populations who are medically and socially vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure and infection. This has underscored the urgency for multipronged and community-engaged strategies to reduce these inequities. Disparities are amplified by community mistrust and misinformation, and policy-influenced on mitigation behaviors.

Georgia CEAL will leverage and capitalize upon existing community partners, leaders, and knowledge holders, community resources, and local service delivery settings to enhance education, awareness, access, and inclusion of underserved communities in research and outreach designed to advance the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and reduce disease disparities. The overall goal of Georgia CEAL is to understand factors that contribute to the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 in underserved communities and establish effective, community-engaged research and outreach response.

“The Georgia CEAL will be governed by a state-representative, community-majority Community Coalition Board designed to ensure that research and outreach processes and findings are translated with, co-created by, and relevant to communities. Members and thought leaders supporting this effort include long-time leaders of the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance Community Engagement Program’s Community Steering Board including the DeKalb County Board of Health, Georgia Department of Health and Human Services Division of Aging Services, the Georgia Primary Care Association, Phoebe Putney Hospital and Circle of Trust, and Visions, Incorporated,” adds Akintobi.

For more information, visit NIH’s Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) website.

Georgia CTSA’s Community Engagement (CE) program is a core component of a collaborative effort between Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), and University of Georgia (UGA). The program improves the way biomedical research is conducted and disseminated throughout Georgia and across the country. It works to unite existing academic-community research partnerships, facilitate community input into university research, and increase health research in community settings that is both responsive and relevant to the health needs of the community.

The Georgia CTSA is a statewide partnership between Emory, MSM, Georgia Tech, and UGA and is one of over 60 in a national consortium striving to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium, funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the National Institutes of Health's Clinical and Translational Science Awards, shares a common vision to translate laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research efforts, and train the next generation of clinical investigators. For more information, visit