American Indian, Latino and Black communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the United States, and Arizona has been no exception.
In response to the disparate pandemic spread, researchers from Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Mayo Clinic and the Arizona Community Health Worker Association (AzCHOW) have formed the Arizona Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Consortium.
Through this yearlong, $1 million project, Arizona CEAL’s main goal is to expand community outreach and to establish effective communication networks throughout Arizona that will address COVID-19 in diverse communities.
“The Arizona CEAL team collaboration brings together a diverse group of researchers and community members to develop community informed educational tools to benefit people in our community who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” said Samantha Sabo, NAU principal investigator of the Arizona CEAL team. She is also an associate professor for NAU’s Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) and the Department of Health Sciences.
“By partnering closely with Arizona Community Health Worker Association, Arizona CEAL is partnering with the essential frontline workforce who have the pulse of the community. CHWs have been serving diverse communities of Arizona since the pandemic began, providing the basic ingredients to prevent COVID-19 spread, compassion and social support,” Sabo said.
NAU co-investigators are Regents’ Professor Julie Baldwin, CHER director, Nicolette Teufel-Shone, associate director of CHER, Naomi Lee, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, assistant professors Linnea Evans and Amanda Pollitt in the Department of Health Sciences and CHER, Heather Williamson, assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy and CHER and Joseph Mihaljevic, assistant professor of School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems, and Dulce Jimenez, SHERC program coordinator.
The National Institutes of Health created CEAL teams in 11 states — Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Each state CEAL team of researchers will develop a program that specifically assists the needs in their state.
CEAL partner organizations, NAU, ASU and AzCHOW, will lead statewide efforts to engage the CHW workforce and Arizona households hardest hit by COVID-19 in conversations about COVID-19.
Online conversations using ZOOM will explore awareness, experiences, concerns, attitudes, needs, knowledge and misconceptions regarding COVID-19 testing, prevention, research participation, vaccination uptake, and medical mistrust. Since the collaboration began in September, the CEAL team plans to launch community conversation via Zoom in December.
“The focus groups will be conducted with family groups, not only to keep CEAL participants safe but also to understand how households are navigating their lives to stay healthy in the mass of information and misinformation available in the media,” Teufel-Shone said.
From the community conversations study results, the researchers will analyze the results and develop culturally appropriate educational materials and strategies specifically designed to address COVID-19 infection, transmission prevention, testing, and vaccinations for ethnically diverse communities.
“The Arizona CEAL approach, particularly the focus groups, will help us develop educational tools and strategies that align with current areas of need in the community and in this way, increase access to accurate, updated, and trustworthy information about COVID-19 that is relevant to these communities,” Jimenez said.
For more information, visit the NAU CEAL team page.