The Arkansas Center for Health Disparities (ARCHD) at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has been awarded a five-year grant extension from the National Institutes of Health worth more than $5.5 million.

The grant aims to develop research to improve access to quality prevention and health care programs for racial and ethnic minorities with the goal of reducing health disparities.

“We are extremely proud of the work we’ve accomplished and are excited that it is being recognized with the continued funds to move forward,” said Jim Raczynski, dean of the UAMS College of Public Health and director of the ARCHD. “In order to adequately address the unique health disparities in our largely rural state, it is necessary to continue the groundbreaking research being done here in collaboration with key statewide partners.”

Collaborators include the Arkansas Department of Health, the Arkansas Minority Health Commission, and the state’s three historically black colleges and universities.

The ARCHD focuses on chronic disease disparities in the state, including obesity, long-term disability, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Arkansas consistently ranks among the worst in the nation in health indicators and health disparities.

“Arkansas has one of the fastest growing Latino populations in the country and the largest Marshallese community outside of the Marshall Islands, in addition to a substantial African-American population in an largely impoverished Mississippi Delta region,” said Holly Felix, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAMS College of Public Health and one of two principal investigators for research projects in the ARCHD. “Our state has a strong need for the continued development of research projects to work toward making a difference in the health of these unique minority populations.”

Raczynski said two key cores within the ARCHD will benefit most from the continued funding award. One is the education and training core, which looks to grow current programs already in place with the state’s traditionally black colleges and universities that prepare minorities with the mentoring necessary to be successful in academic research positions. The second is the community engagement core that looks to partner with community-based organizations and develop service-learning projects for students.

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