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Center for Rural Health and Economic Equity Receives $2.2 Million to Improve Health Equity

November 21, 2023

Contact: Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Black male being attended to by a Black healthcare worker

Tuskegee University leaders are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to quality healthcare. Through the Center for Rural Health and Economic Equity, the university is helping to take groundbreaking steps toward advancing health equity in underserved communities and has just been awarded $2.2 million to support that effort.

The grant provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Maternal Health Research Collaborative for Minority-Service Institutions Research Centers represents a significant milestone in the mission to address health disparities, particularly in maternal health, among marginalized populations. The $2.2 million grant is dedicated to providing resources for community-based participatory research to improve health outcomes for expecting mothers and infants in rural black belt counties in Alabama.

"This is a pivotal moment in our commitment to ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their location or background, have access to quality healthcare," said Crystal James, Vice-President External Affairs, General Counsel and the grant’s Principal Investigator. "We are grateful for the support of the Office of the President and the generous contributions from our donors, who understand the urgency and importance of this mission."

In addition to Attorney James, the transdisciplinary team of experts includes Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Deloris Alexander, Dr. ToRhonda Lee, Dr. Cordelia Nnedu, Mr. Abraham George and Dr. Janett Lewis-Clark who will partner with faculty from the College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Nursing and Allied Health, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business and Information Science and the College of Agriculture, Environment, and Nutrition Sciences to provide the research foundation for a Center of Excellence for Rural Maternal Child and Family Health Equity (Rural MCH Center).

The substantial investment will harness support from a diverse array of stakeholders, including public, private, and individual community stakeholders, all united by a shared commitment to mitigating disparities in healthcare access and outcomes. The framework will ensure that local voices are heard and incorporated into the development of strategies that are not only evidence-based but also culturally sensitive, tailored to the unique needs of the communities they serve.

The Rural MCH Center will provide an evidence-based framework for assessing and eliminating barriers to maternal health equity in rural America. The initiative will also train early investigators, community health workers, doulas, and midwives to identify and intervene to decrease risk factors for adverse health outcomes for rural mothers and babies.

By focusing on holistic solutions that tackle economic barriers alongside health issues, the center's innovative approach is poised to revolutionize the landscape of rural healthcare by bridging gaps in access to care and economic opportunities. This work will develop best practices that may be replicated in rural communities nationwide.

"The Rural MCH Center’s work is significant for the communities it serves, but also for the broader national effort to advance health equity.  Reproductive justice issues are center stage in the United States, the Rural MCH Center will provide needed research to elevate the health concerns of rural mothers and babies in this moment in history," said James. "By pioneering new models of care delivery and economic empowerment, the center aims to serve as a beacon of hope for communities facing persistent challenges in accessing quality healthcare."

While focused on the strategic position of "One Tuskegee” which encompasses internal and external stakeholders from Macon, Bullock, and Barbour counties, the research initiatives will develop best practices that may be replicated in rural communities across the county. The strategies will also serve as a platform for education and capacity-building while in partnership with 17 other minority-serving institutions that received similar funding to address maternal and child health outcomes across the United States.


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