Florida Prevention Research Center is a strategic partner in the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network

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In June, the Office of Minority Health (OMH), part of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced the award of a $40 million grant to the Morehouse School of Medicine and key strategic partners, including the USF College of Public Health’s (COPH) Florida Prevention Research Center (FPRC). Along with ICF Next, a global marketing agency, the FPRC is part of the communication cluster of the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network (NCRN).

The partners will work with community-based organizations across the nation to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate education and information on resources to help fight the pandemic, especially among minority groups who are particularly hard hit by COVID-19. The NCRN will strengthen efforts to link communities to COVID-19 testing, healthcare, social services and an eventual vaccine, and determine how to best share and implement effective response, recovery and resilience strategies.

“The FPRC is involved in this effort primarily because of our expertise in social marketing and our long and successful history of co-creating public health initiatives in partnership with communities,” said Dr. Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha, a COPH alum and assistant professor who is a co-principal investigator on the project. “Many FPRC initiatives remain in place, guided by communities, to this date. The success is attributable to the training and technical assistance we provide and how we put communities in the driver’s seat. This is what the US government, through the OMH, was seeking and what we were able to offer and provide to Morehouse.”

Claudia Parvanta, PhD, top row, second from left, and Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha, PhD, second row, second from left, take part in a virtual meeting with other NCRN team members. (Screenshot courtesy of Parvanta)

The FPRC’s long-standing collaborative relationship with the Morehouse School of Medicine, and in particular with the school’s Prevention Research Center, led by two-time COPH alum Dr. Tabia Henry Akintobi, a 2015 COPH Outstanding Alumni Award winner, was another reason the FPRC was asked to participate.

The COPH’s main role will be communication and dissemination. 

“The communication cluster will develop and test materials and strategies that may be used eventually to encourage all US racial and ethnic minority groups to practice behaviors known to reduce the spread of COVID-19, particularly testing and uptake of the vaccine, once it is available,” explained Dr. Claudia Parvanta, a COPH professor and director of the FPRC who is the project’s principal investigator. 

Specifically the COPH team will:

  • Conduct literature reviews addressing current knowledge, attitudes and behaviors in regard to testing for COVID-19 and potential vaccine acceptance. 
  • Help develop the formative research plan and methodology.
  • Provide training and technical assistance to selected community partners to use Community-Based Prevention Marketing (CBPM) to get their input into development of communication messages/materials and strategies. CBPM is a program-planning framework developed by the FPRC that combines community engagement with social marketing to achieve sustainable change.
  • Use neuromarketing methods to test communication materials. Neuromarketing measures neurological responses, such as eye tracking and brain activity, to measure one’s response to a product/packaging/advertising/messaging.

“Dr. Pasha and I truly believe that the participatory nature of CBPM results in empowerment of communities to use a systematic process to evaluate where gaps exist in policies, services, products or the need to change behavior. By engaging community stakeholders directly in all aspects of the research, they will see how to gather information and to use it to make changes,” said Parvanta. “There will be significant pressure to address the underlying conditions (e.g. lack of available health services, structural racism in delivery of health care or other social services) and carry the efforts out beyond the immediate pandemic.”

“The reason we are often not successful in reaching marginalized communities is because we tend to use a one-size-fits-all approach,” added Pasha. “There is a realization that we need to create culturally and linguistically appropriate messages and strategies, and they have to be coming from the communities and based in the communities. We are providing a vehicle through CBPM to get this insight and feedback and to provide ownership of this issue to the community. Our work will be essential to reducing disparities, as the work is based within the community and respecting and honoring their traditions!”

Others in the college working on the NCRN project include Dr. Dinorah Martinez Tyson as well as several graduate assistants and COPH alums working with FPRC. The project is slated to run three years, with the COPH funding amounting to just over $766,099 for the first year. The OMH will review progress annually and release funds accordingly.

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health