Partnership with DSU

October 2020
Partnership with DSU

Understanding COVID-19 in Underserved Communities: An Opportunity to Develop More Effective Public Health Interventions
Submitted by Dr. Dorothy Dillard, Ph.D.: Director, Center for Neighborhood Revitalization and Research at Delaware State University

The devastating impact of COVID-19 on residents of underserved communities is undeniable. Delaware’s Division of Public Health identifies many of the state’s rural communities as high priority areas for COVID-19 testing. These communities are also characterized by historically entrenched health disparities resulting from decades of limited attention and insufficient resources to address the social determinants of health, fueling poor health outcomes. Clearly, our public health and social service interventions have been limited.

As devastating as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, it also presents an opportunity to do things differently.

To develop more effective public health interventions, we must first better understand the factors that relate COVID-19 exposure, protection and testing among residents in underserved communities. Our multidisciplinary team at Delaware State University has been awarded a NIH grant to examine the attitudes, knowledge and resources that affect testing and behavior decisions.

Factors associated with changing behaviors and health decisions, such as testing, are complicated. We will be considering multiple factors (see above) in our effort to understand COVID-19 exposure and risk reduction. We will also track exposure to COVID-19 and behavior changes over time to determine factors reducing risk and increasing testing. Given the likelihood that a vaccine will become available during the study, the study findings will be critical in understanding how to prepare residents for vaccination, and to increase willingness to be vaccinated.

We are fortunate to be partnering with Sussex County Health Coalition and its network of partners. Our partnership with SCHC will allow us to leverage its experience and knowledge to implement the study in the most culturally appropriate and effective way. SCHC and it partners will be critical in helping us to understand the study data and findings in the context of the study participant’s lives and communities. We will also rely on SCHC and its partners to help us use the study findings to develop more effective public health interventions tailored specifically to each community.

PHOTO: Dorothy Dillard, Ph.D.: Director, Center for Neighborhood Revitalization and Research at Delaware State University , Dr. Xuanren (Sharron) Goodman: Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Peggy Geisler: Executive Director of SCHC, Kathryn Burritt: Project Lead celebrate new partnership

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