NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is leading a project that has been awarded $4 million from the National Institutes of Health to address health disparities and advance health equity.
Dr. Rebecca Selove, director of TSU’s Center for Prevention, and Dr. Jemal Gishe, also at TSU, are heading up the Engaging Partners in Caring Communities (EPICC) project. It is designed to support delivery of evidence-based health promotion programs in churches serving African American communities, and engage participants in collectively identifying and addressing social determinants of health.
Drs. Selove and Gishe are joined by investigators at Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University, and Rev. Omaràn Lee, director of the Congregational Health and Education Network (CHEN), which includes about 100 churches in Middle Tennessee.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with the academic team and Rev. Lee in learning how to expand the capacity of African American churches to offer research-tested health promotion programs in their congregations,” said Selove.
Added Gishe, “I’m excited to work on EPICC that addresses health disparities using transformative research with strong community engagement and to be able to collaborate with diverse academic team members and community leaders.”
Dr. Leah R. Alexander is an associate professor in Meharry Medical College’s Division of Public Health Practice. She said she’s honored to be part of the research team.
“COVID has had such a devastating impact on the black community in ways we could have never imagined, even in the ways we worship,” said Alexander. “I am from Nashville and so excited to be working with churches across the city that may be deciding how to ‘do church’ these days.”
Dr. Sharon C. Jones, assistant professor in the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, and Dr. David G. Schlundt, associate professor of Psychology in Vanderbilt’s College of Arts and Science, said addressing health inequities is a team effort.
“Educating people to improve their health literacy and be involved in their own health plan is a core piece of what nurses do every day,” said Jones, DNP, RN. “I’m excited that we’re launching this major community-based research project incorporating Nashville General’s CHEN, as well as community advocates, key personnel and consultants. It is vital that we as a community and a society find solutions that mitigate health inequities and overcome health challenges.”
“EPICC has brought together all the right community partners to help Nashville church congregations enhance the health and well-being of their members,” said Schlundt. “Embracing Vanderbilt’s strongcommitment to collaborative, interdisciplinary research and community outreach, we have created a multidisciplinary team that forms an equal partnership with community stakeholders to address health disparities.”
Rev. Lee said the NIH award is a blessing.
“This award will benefit the congregations greatly by providing fiscal resources, needed information to influence healthy lifestyles, and understanding the social determinants of health,” said Lee.
The grant is the latest in a record year of research funding for TSU. During the 2020-21 fiscal year, faculty at TSU received more than $70 million in sponsored research and external funding.
“This award further demonstrates the dedication and success of TSU faculty and staff in pursuing and obtaining new awards to provide valuable services to the community,” said Dr. Frances Williams, associate vice president for Research and Sponsored Programs at TSU.
The EPICC project is funded by the NIH Common Fund’s Transformative Research to Address Health Disparities and Advance Health Equity Initiative [Grant Number:1U01OD033244-019], which supports projects that aim to prevent, reduce, or eliminate health disparities and advance health equity.
To learn more about NIH’s initiative, visit https://bit.ly/30ERDTp.
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