story by Homma Rafi
Director of Communications, School of Public Health
ATLANTA—The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded an interdisciplinary team in Georgia State University’s School of Public Health a two-year, $1.3 million grant through its RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program to better understand barriers and motivations for participating in COVID-19 research among Black communities in Atlanta.
The team will examine what kinds of things preclude people from participating in COVID-19 serostudies, which survey a large number of people for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 antibody through a minimally invasive test, such as a finger prick.
“Unfortunately, Black persons and other racial/ethnic minorities are less likely than white persons to participate in such studies,” said Dr. Heather Bradley, the principal investigator of the project and assistant professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health.
Historic distrust of medical research participation among Black people is well-documented. Barriers to participation, such as distrust, lack of perceived benefits and racism exacerbated by the U.S. political climate, are unknown.
Black people account for 20 percent of diagnosed SARS-CoV-2 infections and 22 percent of associated deaths nationally, while representing only 13 percent of the U.S. population. Because SARS-CoV-2 testing is limited among minority populations, infections in Black communities are less likely to be diagnosed relative to infections among white persons. The lack of data makes it difficult to know the extent of how COVID-19 disproportionately affects Black populations in the nation.
“By better understanding barriers and motivations for participation, we hope to make COVID-19 research more inclusive of Black communities,” Bradley said. “Increasing representation is critical to improving the acceptability and effectiveness of other public health strategies, such as vaccine rollout, for minority communities with the highest risk.”
A community advisory board composed of leaders from professional, faith-based and health organizations serving Black communities in Atlanta will provide culturally relevant guidance on the project.
The NIH’s RADx-UP program aims to better understand COVID-19 testing patterns among underserved and vulnerable populations, strengthen the data on disparities in infection rates, disease progression and outcomes, and develop strategies to reduce the disparities in COVID-19 testing. It is a part of the agency’s broader Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative. Georgia State is one of 55 institutions that received an NIH award through the RADx-UP program to support projects to rapidly implement COVID-19 testing strategies in populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
The co-principal investigators of the study are Dr. Richard Rothenberg, an infectious disease expert and Regents’ Professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences; Dr. Dennis Reidy, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy & Behavioral Sciences; and Dr. Veronica Newton, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology. The team includes Dázon Dixon Diallo, the founder and president of SisterLove, Inc., and Herschel Smith, a Ph.D. student in the School of Public Health.
Department of Population Health Sciences
School of Public Health
Heather Bradley is an epidemiologist whose main research interests include HIV prevention and treatment outcomes, surveillance methodology, and the intersection of infectious diseases with the U.S. opioid epidemic. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgia State, Dr. Bradley worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in various divisions, including the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention and the Division of STD Prevention.