This Delaware Initiative Improves Resources for Equity

A Delaware State University (DSU) initiative is helping to improve health among underserved communities.

The Interdisciplinary Health Equity Research Center aims to both support more research on disease and share information about healthy living. This latest chapter in Delaware State University’s (DSU’s) history of working toward racial equality is made possible by a five-year, $18.36 million grant awarded last year by the National Institutes of Health—the largest research grant in the university’s history, says Melissa Harrington, associate vice president for research, who is helping administer the grant.

“It’ll be transformative,” she says, by speeding up the university’s ability to build research into social psychology and health. Part of that will come through laboratory renovations and hiring new faculty.

Disparities between majority and minority communities can be significant, says DSU President Tony Allen. “What it takes to help solve this is real life, on-the-ground work,” he says, noting the school’s “solution-oriented research.”

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One goal in Kent and Sussex counties is education in underserved areas about putting into practice things that will improve health, Harrington says. Research on diabetes, sleep health and breast cancer is currently underway. The center is also exploring how systems can help people become healthier and is partnering with other health-focused organizations in the community on a series of projects. (DSU is collecting applications for mini grants for organizations wanting to evaluate a program or pilot a new one.)

DSU’s credibility serves as a bridge between research knowledge and people, Harrington says, something that’s essential to getting therapies to the underserved communities that need them.

It’s not just about collecting data, adds Allen, but also making sure people have a voice in the process. “So when you come up with recommendations or solutions, they understand where they’re coming from [and] feel like they’ve been a part of the process.”

The grant is renewable at the end of five years, Harrington says, which gives them hope to build on their research.

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