NCCU Health Disparities Team Assists NC Communities Facing COVID-19

Posted April 13, 2020, 9:04AM
Deepak Kumar, Ph.D., leads the Biomedical Biotechnology Research Institute at NCCU.

Members of North Carolina Central University’s health disparities research team are providing epidemiology assistance and other critical services to several local health departments to assist in the battle against the coronavirus that is impacting the nation and the world.

The Health Equity, Environment and Population Health program, known as HOPE, is offering assistance in the North Carolina counties of Cabarrus, Anson and Rowan counties, where public health systems may lack funding and staff to adequately serve patients during the pandemic.

HOPE was established by Deepak Kumar, Ph.D., director of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical Biotechnology Research Institute, to help researchers examine social determinants of health and inequities in health care services, economic status and environmental conditions among African Americans and other minorities. Since March 2020, the team’s work has focused on helping communities prepare for and respond to COVID-19.

“The HOPE program was initiated to help develop a deeper understanding of the health disparities that exist in communities across North Carolina, and it is fortunate that this network is in place to assist public health agencies in these areas,” Kumar said. “As a National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities-designated research center, BBRI faculty and staff also will be providing support for the HOPE team as needed throughout the pandemic.”

The HOPE program is based out of North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis and led by former Cabarrus County health director William Pilkington, M.D.

Kumar noted that the risk factors for developing complications from COVID-19 include some of the health problems linked to health disparities, in which ethnic minorities, lower income families, rural residents and other groups do not have access to the resources needed to live healthy lives.

“Risk factors for infection, severe symptoms and adverse outcomes from COVID-19 include diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney and liver disease, lung disease and immune disorders,” Pilkington said. “Most if not all of the risk factors are known health issues disproportionately affecting minority populations.”

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