Researchers receive new grant to improve research in underserved communities

A new grant awarded to University of Florida, University of Michigan and University of California, Davis investigators allows for improved training of community health workers to engage minority populations in research where they are often underrepresented and health disparities exist. Community health workers are an important resource for providing basic health care needs for the community, as well as helping facilitate clinical research.

Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., MPH, FACE, a dean’s professor in the UF department of epidemiology and the College of Public Health and Health Professions’ associate dean for research, leads the study along with fellow principal investigators Susan Murphy, Sc.D., OTR/L, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine, and Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of clinical internal medicine at UC Davis Health. The newly funded $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences will help train and empower community health workers in research best practices.

“Community health workers understand the needs of their community and are an incredibly valuable resource, especially when it comes to engaging their community members in research that could help us reduce health disparities in the future,” said Cottler, the director of community engagement of the University of Florida Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

The three principal investigators say the grant will address four main issues:

  1. Provide a standardized education in research best practices for community health workers.
  2. Develop training for community health workers and promotoras (Spanish-speaking community health workers) that is relevant to their community’s culture and language(s).
  3. Reduce barriers to accessibility of competency-based training and tools for training community health workers online.
  4. Empower select community health workers to become “champions” of the training to serve as peer mentors and facilitate the training of their colleagues at the community sites where they work.