With NIH grant, Georgia Tech, Emory, and Morehouse researchers aim to increase COVID-19 testing for people affected by diabetes

Georgia Tech researchers, in collaboration with Emory University and the Morehouse School of Medicine, have received a $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to increase COVID-19 testing for people affected by diabetes in Georgia. The grant was specifically awarded to The Georgia Center for Diabetes Translation Research (GCDTR), which is a joint collaboration among the three institutions.

A part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, the RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program will support research that 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 disparities in COVID-19 testing.

Leading the project at Georgia Tech is Regents’ Professor Elizabeth Mynatt, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute of People and Technology.

“We are establishing a technology ecosystem to optimize COVID-19 testing by identifying where, with whom, and how to intervene in underserved populations most severely affected by COVID-19 disease,” said Mynatt.

“Our team at Georgia Tech is well-prepared to contribute to this project as we already have faculty that are developing predictive models that anticipate testing needs and determine emergent barriers to optimal testing experiences that account for the needs and attitudes of racial/ethnic minority, rural, and socially vulnerable populations. We will be iteratively optimizing the design, deployment, and evaluation of COVID-19 testing. Working with our community partners, we will determine how to best deploy testing resources, and how to improve the testing experience, including tailoring messaging and educational materials to address community needs and barriers to testing.”

K.M. Venkat Narayan, M.D., M.Sc., MBA, Ruth and O.C. Hubert Professor of Global Health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, is the principal investigator on the project.

Tabia Henry Akintobi, Ph.D., M.P.H., Morehouse School of Medicine Professor of Community Health and Preventive Medicine and Director, Prevention Research Center, is serving as lead investigator at Morehouse.

“People with or at risk of diabetes are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and its complications,” says Narayan. “This project will facilitate testing for COVID-19 in these populations in Georgia.”

“Obstinate diabetes disparities are exacerbated by the pandemic and require strategic community-clinical partners,” notes Henry Akintobi. “Understanding community readiness and knowledge are essential towards approaches that are community-informed and contextually sensitive, thereby improving success and advancing health equity.”

The study will optimize testing for minority populations affected by diabetes and associated comorbidities, including pre-diabetes and obesity. An iterative testing strategy will be implemented at federally qualified health centers that provide care for uninsured and at-risk individuals and offer community engagement techniques.

“It is critical that all Americans have access to rapid, accurate diagnostics for COVID-19, especially underserved and vulnerable populations who are bearing the brunt of this disease,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “The RADx-UP program will help us better understand and alleviate the barriers to testing for those most vulnerable and reduce the burden of this disease on all Americans.”

 

About the Georgia Center for Diabetes Translation Research (GCDTR)
Established in 2016 (P30DK111024) as a partnership among Emory University (schools of public health, medicine, nursing, business, college of arts and sciences), Morehouse School of Medicine, and Georgia Institute of Technology, GCDTR embarked on the vision of promoting translation research to generate and disseminate knowledge that influences practice and policy. The GCDTR embraces a comprehensive approach of addressing all populations that disproportionately experience diabetes and its complications based on their: 1) demographic characteristics (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity/culture, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status), 2) position over the lifespan (e.g., youth, pregnant, elderly), 3) geographic location (e.g., rural, urban), and 4) associated co-morbidities (e.g., cardiovascular disease, depression, HIV, COVID-19). GCDTR will strive for equity and will operationalize this through: (a) an overarching theme of reducing diabetes disparities across age, race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, geography, sexual orientation, and associated comorbidities; (b) a core dedicated to socioecological and behavioral science approaches to promote equity at the population and community level; (d) a core dedicated to reducing disparities in diabetes prevention, access to care, and healthcare quality with a patient-centered focus across healthcare systems; and (e) vision, philosophy, and leadership structure embracing an inclusive and active approach to advance equity as an aspirational goal.

 

About the Georgia Tech Institute for People and Technology
The Institute for People and Technology (IPaT) brings together researchers from across Georgia Tech to support world-class research, engage students, and collaborate with industry, government, and nonprofit partners. Our goal is to maximize Georgia Tech’s societal impact through people-centered innovation. IPaT supports and connects faculty and students across the entire Georgia Tech campus by blurring the lines between academic disciplines and partnering to translate research results into real-world use. Georgia Tech is at the forefront of science and technology research, and home to state-of-the-art facilities and world-renowned experts who are working every day to find answers to tough problems. IPaT brings together researchers, industry, and other partners to identify technology solutions that will shape our global future. IPaT was created in 2011 to embrace these opportunities and needs, to create a networked research ecosystem of Georgia Tech faculty and industry partners, and to amplify their combined thought leadership and on-the-ground results to create a positive economic and societal impact in critical areas that define much of everyday life.

 

 

Media contact:
Walter Rich
walter.rich@research.gatech.edu

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