Research published in Ethnicity & Disease

It’s not often that members of a community collaborate with academic investigators on scientific publications. But with support from the Mid-South Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center (TCC) for Health Disparities Research and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, some community research partners will see their research published in the journal Ethnicity & Disease.

In a special issue of the journal, academic and community partners report on the processes, experiences, and findings of innovative interventions jointly designed and successfully implemented by academic investigators representing multiple disciplines and community partners from a wide array of organizations. The results of this unique approach fill a gap in the scientific literature where the insight, perspective, and experiences of community research partners is often lacking.

Lead principal investigator, Mona Fouad, MD, MPH, Director and Professor, UAB Division of Preventive Medicine explains, “It is vitally important for researchers to listen to the voices of the community. The Mid-South TCC’s regional approach to collaboration, made possible by our extensive partnerships and infrastructure, has enabled us not only to examine the common factors, such as neighborhood characteristics, poverty, and food access that influence health across geographic areas, but to work with community partners to gather their insights. This approach takes social determinants of health research beyond individual communities and demonstrates the importance of community collaboration.”

One of the successful Mid-South TCC collaborators is Birmingham’s Zyp Bikeshare. “Zyp, like any Bikeshare, is a data driven organization,” said Zyp’s Olivia Hart. “But as a small non-profit we lack the resources for sophisticated analysis of this data. Collaborating with Dr. Gabriela Oates and UAB provides us with results we can actually use to drive decision making, prove efficacy, and add impact to funding applications. All of which directly benefits our community,” she said.

Findings from Mid-South TCC academic and community research partners in Ethnicity & Disease include:

  • Bikeshare Use in Urban Communities: Individual and Neighborhood Factors. The authors report that higher neighborhood socio-economic disadvantage is associated with higher Bikeshare use, concluding that Bikeshare is a viable transportation option in low-resource neighborhoods and may be an effective tool to improve the connectivity, livability, and health of urban communities.

  • Empowering One Community at a Time for Policy, System, and Environmental Changes (PSE) to Impact Obesity. Communities where the mayor is actively involved in health initiatives enjoy important benefits. The Mid-South TCC partnered with the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention to empower communities to make long-term sustainable changes through the Mayors Mentoring Mayors program. This initiative was expanded from Arkansas to five Mid-South TCC states and provides an opportunity for mayors, elected officials, and stakeholders to confront obesity in their community by addressing the PSE strategies most relevant to them.

According to Luisa Borrell, DDS, PhD, an associate editor of Ethnicity & Disease, “The Academic-Community partnerships led by the Mid-South TCC have not only underscored the role of the social determinants of health in these communities but have also empowered them to organize and advocate for their members. The research findings published in this special supplement can serve as a model for other institutions and communities to join efforts to address health inequities through the use of the social determinants of health model.”

Leading the Mid-South TCC research are principal investigators Mona Fouad, MD, MPH, and Edward Partridge, MD, both of the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Mario Sims, PhD, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Marinelle Payton, MD, PhD, MPH, Jackson State University, Lucio Miele, MD, PhD, and Richard Scribner, MD, MPH, both of Louisiana State University. There are over 120 Mid-South TCC community partners. Partners whose work was published in this supplement include Zyp Bikeshare (AL), the Kingston Coalition (AL), The Hollygrove Market (LA), Daughters of Charity (LA), Sankofa Community Development Inc. (LA), Gentilly Community/Dillard University Office of Community Relations (LA), Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention/Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance (AR).

Research reported in these articles in Ethnicity & Disease was supported by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities through a grant from the National Institutes of Health under award number U54MD008176.