Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana are all represented in the Southern Commonweal, a CCTS initiative designed to drive conversation and enhance partnerships that ameliorate our common health challenges in the Deep South, which has become even more critical with the arrival of COVID-19. We’ve spotlighted projects that three members of the Commonweal have shared during recent meetings. The efforts at their institutions speak to an incredible amount of collaboration and care.

Sewing masks at Auburn UniversityDong Shang, a volunteer sewist for Auburn University's mask initiative.Chippewa Thomas, PhD, MEd, BA, is a professor and the Director of Faculty Engagement for the Office of the Vice President for University Outreach at Auburn University. She was part of a massive effort to make and distribute over 12,000 masks for the local community. Scott Bishop, Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, led the mask initiative but recognizes the teamwork that was at play, sharing “I cannot emphasize enough how important the support of the Auburn University administration was for the success of this project. Within three weeks from the time that we decided to initiate the project, we had financial support, a website, instructional video, communications and marketing support, and fabric to cut into pre-made kits for sewing.” Auburn’s School of Industrial Design supplied the laser cutter needed to create the kits, and more than 200 volunteers helped in production and distribution. 

Mississippi residents have drive-through access to masks and hand sanitizer. Cassandra Dove, MA, is the Chief Programs Officer for the Office Preventative Health & Health Equity for the Mississippi State Health Department, providing the Commonweal a broader perspective on the state’s response to COVID-19. Chigozie Udemgba, PhD, leads the Health Equity Response Team for the department, and organized their focus around three areas: 1) providing access to resources like masks (200,000 were distributed last month alone!) and hand sanitizer, 2) educating communities about the pandemic, and 3) providing ease of access to testing. The department has partnered with faith community leaders and the Mississippi Head Start Association to increase their reach and effectiveness.

MMartha usaMartha Arrieta, PhD, University of South Alabamaartha Arrieta, PhD, is the Director of Research at the Center for Health Communities at the University of South Alabama, and after it was reported that disparities were evident in COVID-19 mortality, she worked with a team that launched a qualitative study to understand how underserved communities in Mobile, Alabama were experiencing the pandemic. Virtual focus groups and interviews were held in order to understand what specific needs COVID-19 has created or exacerbated, and how to address those challenges. The study also evaluated how to most effectively communicate important information. The study is complete and Arietta is working with her team to prepare an action-oriented report to share with community stakeholders.

The members of the Southern Commonweal participate in quarterly meetings to discuss challenges, share best practices, and align research, training, and outreach activities. Questions about the Southern Commonweal or CCTS Engagement of Communities? Contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..