Centers for Disease Control data continue to show that, in unadjusted analyses, Non-Hispanic Blacks, Indigenous Americans and Hispanic and Latino persons have higher COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths compared to Non-Hispanic Whites. The observed differences in morbidity and mortality do not appear to be adequately explained by pre-existing risk factors. It is becoming widely accepted that COVID-19 disparities are, in large part, a direct result of structural violence; defined as the built in differences in distribution of resources, education and literacy, medical care, social and economic opportunities, and, importantly, power to decide. In keeping with recommendations that pandemic response planning and readiness should include addressing social injustice, the proposed study seeks to lay a foundation for a long-term response to the social determinants of health disparities that have been laid bare by COVID-19. The population of interest for this study are African Americans in the DC metropolitan area with an emphasis on communities that experience social, economic, and health vulnerabilities. To achieve our aims, we have convened a broad-based group of diverse scholars, health professionals, and community stakeholders. This group will collaboratively create and curate an information repository that will be used to create strategies to guide interventions to address the current crisis, with a lens toward long-term change. We will test two specific interventions; both designed to increase research literacy and promote community capacity for informed decision making about COVID-19 response behaviors including participation in testing, clinical research, and vaccination. We hypothesize that messages that emphasize informed choice will promote more favorable attitudes toward COVID-19 research and vaccination. The first intervention approach will convene opportunities for researchers and community members to have frank dialogues about the quality and relevance of emerging science and the unique ethical challenges presented by the pandemic. The second intervention will apply evidence-based community health work interventions to address community information needs about COVID-19. These community health interventions will also be responsive to everyday health and social priorities that might take precedence over considerations of adhering to recommendations for COVID-19 response. We anticipate that these activities will promote trust in using research information to make informed decision because the trust is not in the expert knowledge, but in the individual?s ability to weigh the evidence and draw conclusions. We anticipate that this project will result in important outcomes including: 1) replicable approaches for enhancing existing networks for engaging communities in testing, follow-up care and social services to address basic needs related to COVID-19; 2) creation of a trusted COVID-19 communication network to reach underserved and/or vulnerable populations and 3) evidence-based materials and approaches to address current misrepresentations or misunderstandings inhibiting uptake of COVID-19 testing and vaccination.
This study will make research data about COVID-19 more accessible and user-friendly for the general public. The project will engage communities and researchers in dialogues about research to promote informed decision making. Outreach strategies will provide up-to-date information about COVID-19 research and connect people with community resources.