Insights of Precision Medicine Initiative’s All of Us Research Program in Mississippi
While a key component of eliminating health disparities in rural areas is successfully conducting participatory research, many barriers prevent implementation of research projects due to lack of trust in minority communities. Adverse experiences and historical prejudices have left an indelible mark of skepticism and misinformation among these populations and established a breach of communication between researchers and potential participants.
The All of Us Research Program led by the National Institute of Health (NIH) at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson, Mississippi seeks to both improve communication regarding population research studies among rural Mississippi populations and build trust in the community by leveraging grant partnerships with similar aims. UMMC is home to numerous community-based grant programs with a focus on rural medicine and health disparities. UMMC’s name recognition within the state supports the objective of establishing integrity and longevity for its community-based programs. Through the formation of partnerships with research programs of corresponding demographic aims, All of Us can improve its engagement impact, and develop relationships that will serve as the underpinning of program recruitment.
A number of UMMC community-based programs have been identified and work has begun to create a footprint in rural areas where disparities have been prevalent. UMMC operates a school-based clinic program in the Mississippi Delta to offer free clinical care to students, staff, and the community at large. All of Us has already partnered with an initial educational event and additional opportunities are planned to optimize our presence in this area. The CEAL grant provides educational awareness related to COVID vaccines and clinical intervention through evidence-based practices. The Department of Preventive Medicine operates a resident-run, community wellness clinic that travels throughout the state to provide baseline well checks to underserved communities. Our institutional aim of reducing health disparities and implementing positive, validated messaging around research provides a shared framework in which we can engage. These programs all seek to improve community relations and assess research perceptions. Further, they all aim to provide health resources for those who are underserved. Community outreach will be more successful when partnerships demonstrate cohesive goals, providing a unified presence that initiates trust. Relationships can continue to build on that trust through consistent visits and activities that enrich the community. All of Us has experienced initial success using the partner program approach and will track the progress of engagement activities as this endeavor continues throughout the grant year.