A UCLA-led coalition of 11 academic institutions and their community partners across California has received a $4.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a statewide community-engaged approach to addressing COVID-19 among populations that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, it was announced Monday.

Investigators at UCLA will lead the coalition — called the COVID-19 California Alliance, or STOP COVID-19 CA — which is part of the NIH’s broader Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities. The partnership is a joint effort among five UC medical campuses, two additional UC campuses and four other academic institutions in California.

“This important collaboration will include 11 major institutions with highly innovative community-partnered research projects,” said co-lead investigator Dr. Arleen Brown, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and co-leader of the Community Engagement and Research Program at the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

“These institutions reside and work in diverse communities with high rates of COVID-19 infections and complications across the state,” she said. “The community input makes all the difference in these projects.”

Each site within STOP COVID-19 CA will rely on locally informed approaches, leveraging the unique partnership networks and insights within each community to address local problems. In Los Angeles, for instance, investigators plan to run in-depth virtual focus groups with multi-ethnic communities to identify barriers and challenges to inclusive vaccine development and vaccination.

Another project will assess racial and ethnic attitudes among high-risk veterans that might prevent them from accepting a potential vaccine and subsequently develop messaging to encourage vaccination among the group.

The lessons learned from those efforts will help identify opportunities for application statewide and nationally.

“In the early stages of the pandemic, we saw the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 was having on Black, Latin and Indigenous communities and other minority groups,” said Dr. Carrie L. Byington, executive vice president of UC Health and an infectious disease expert. “We expanded outreach, testing and care to support these communities quickly.”

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