N.C. Policy Collaboratory Awards $1M each to the Six Historically Minority-Serving Institutions

CHAPEL HILL, NC – The UNC Board of Governors announced today that it will partner with the N.C. Policy Collaboratory at UNC-Chapel Hill to award $6 million in COVID-19 funding to the UNC System’s six historically minority-serving institutions. 

The Board’s Committee on Historically Minority-Serving Institutions (HMSIs) was established in 2018 to support six UNC System institutions – Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, N.C. A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, UNC Pembroke, and Winston-Salem State University.

“I am very excited about the progress of the HMSI Committee and the work they are doing to impact our communities and advance our institutions,” said Board Chair Randy Ramsey. “Collaborations such as this will be vitally important in our continuing fight against the coronavirus.”

Darrell Allison, chair of the HMSI Committee, said the partnership will award approximately $1 million to each university to support research and activities that help fight the spread of the virus.

“This is yet another opportunity for the UNC System to show the meaningful impact that our historically minority-serving institutions are making in their respective regions and communities they serve,” said Allison. “I am confident that this partnership and these programs will provide real-life solutions in the fight against COVID-19, today, and could be a model for how our state can more effectively confront tomorrow’s crises as well.” 

Each institution will participate in a variety of COVID-19 activities, including research of antibodies, community testing, and other related activities that support minority and rural populations. 

Dr. Jeff Warren, executive director of N.C. Policy Collaboratory, said, given the greater number of African-Americans and minorities affected by the virus, he believes this partnership will impact parts of North Carolina in a positive way.

“One of the first calls I received after the $29 million research package was approved by the General Assembly and the Governor was from Darrell Allison,” said Dr. Warren. “From our first conversation, it was clear we were both well aware that these campuses, and the communities they serve, represented areas of the State hardest hit from this pandemic. This investment builds on forward-thinking research already occurring on all six of these campuses.”

The Collaboratory recently received $29 million to study treatment, community testing and prevention, as well as the public health and economic impact, of COVID-19 under a $1.5 billion coronavirus relief package approved last month by state legislators. The Collaboratory’s COVID-19 research projects will provide new data and information to state lawmakers and policymakers to help guide the state’s response.  

Here’s an overview of some of the proposed research and activities to be conducted by each institution, through this partnership:

  • ECSU will focus on two approaches in the fight against COVID-19. The university will work to enhance capacity and infrastructure to support COVID-19 response, recovery, and resilience for racial and ethnic minority, socially vulnerable, and rural communities in northeastern North Carolina by establishing ECSU as a regional site for COVID-19 testing and as the hub for drone delivery, transporting essentials such as PPE and critical medical supplies to the most vulnerable populations in the region.
  • FSU will focus on a four-pronged approach that will include COVID-19 coordinating care  and testing for underserved and vulnerable populations; developing a nucleus for a COVID-19 serological testing center; developing noninvasive, rapid risk assessment for symptomatic patients; and adding to the Social Vulnerability Index research for Cumberland County, which will examine the COVID-19 impacts on disadvantaged populations in the region.
  • N.C. A&T will fund multi-research projects, addressing COVID-19 studies that include food and animal testing across the state; an affordable fever detection system for K-12; efforts to mitigate mortality rates among older adults in nursing homes and residential care facilities;  the design of an anti-viral nanoparticle that can kill the  coronavirus; and an economic impact study of the virus in the Piedmont Triad region. 
  • NCCU will create the Advanced Center for COVID-19 Related Disparities (ACCORD) and conduct multidisciplinary research to study the public health and economic impact of COVID-19 in underserved communities in North Carolina. Specifically, the center will facilitate nasal swab testing in 7 counties, including Anson, Cabarrus, Durham, Granville, Halifax, Rowan and Vance and leverage outreach programs that focus on culturally sensitive and effective messaging to community groups and organizations.
  • UNCP will develop an epidemiologic transmission-dynamic model of COVID-19 in rural settings, such as Robeson County, and examine the unique challenges these areas face in terms of disease transmission and mitigation efforts, including extended family and rural cultural dynamics; the need to travel beyond county boundaries for employment opportunities; strained health care resources; and the lack of industry and infrastructure that reliably support remote employment. The university will also study the cognitive and affective influences on prevention practices, including vaccination. 
  • WSSU is building on a current NIH-funded pilot study on campus that explores the feasibility of training HBCU students as community health workers to deliver evidence-based interventions to address chronic disease. In addition, faculty will engage the Hispanic and African-American communities to better understand the long-term impact on university enrollments and the probability of ongoing social and economic mobility in these communities.  A third study will also explore to what extent poverty, disability and minority status relate to COVID-related disparities for vulnerable minority populations in the Piedmont Triad area.

The N.C. Policy Collaboratory was created by the N.C. General Assembly in 2016 to facilitate the dissemination of the research and policy expertise of the UNC System for practical use by State and local government. The COVID-19 research initiatives conducted at all campuses across the UNC System in conjunction with the N.C. Policy Collaboratory must be completed by December 30, 2020 per federal COVID-19 funding requirements established by the CARES Act.