Meharry announces $1.1M Truist grant to limit spread of COVID-19 through innovative technologies

(l-r) Truist Foundation President Lynette Bell Dr. James E.K. Hildreth

Meharry Medical College has announced the receipt of a $1.1 million grant from the Truist Foundation to develop a national model for COVID-19 contact tracing through advanced technology solutions to limit the spread of the virus, especially among minority populations most impacted by the pandemic.

The funding will be used to expand COVID-19 contact tracing through social network analytics and GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping to identify hotspots across the country. This work will be done alongside local health departments and their efforts to combat COVID-19.

“My team and I are delighted to partner with Meharry Medical College, particularly given the institution’s commitment to working with underserved communities in preventing the spread of COVID-19” said Truist Foundation President Lynette Bell. “Through Meharry’s unique outreach and technology resources, the college has the ability to lead the nation’s contact tracing efforts and address the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on minority communities.”

The Center for the Study of Social Determinants of Health (CSSDH) at Meharry will facilitate these initiatives as an extension of its work to promote health equity and address health disparities expedited by the pandemic through advanced data and tailored interventions for vulnerable populations.

The grant will enable CSSDH to integrate patient-centered prevention and treatment tools, predictive analytics and research registries for further insight on how the pandemic is impacting vulnerable populations’ health outcomes. CSSDH will leverage this data to support health organizations nationwide in their efforts to combat the virus and promote health equity within their communities.

“The Center for the Study of Social Determinants of Health is committed to developing real, actionable solutions to address COVID-19 and its ongoing impact on the underserved,” said Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, president/CEO of Meharry Medical College. “The pandemic has put a spotlight on health disparities across our country and Meharry stands more than ready to lead the fight in limiting the spread of the virus and creating equitable change.”

In the year since its founding, CSSDH has focused its research on understanding how health care disparities among minority populations are produced by social determinants of health. Key areas of concentration for CSSDH include leading causes of preventable deaths: tobacco and nicotine, substance use (opioids/alcohol) and COVID-19, as well as the impact of physical inactivity and lack of nutrition. The Center also studies treatment adherence for chronic medical conditions: HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney, cardiovascular and mental health. A precision medicine approach informs the development of digital tools to provide evidence-based, individualized and low-burden interventions to enhance care for underserved communities.

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