WASHINGTON — Morehouse School of Medicine will receive a $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fight COVID-19 in racial and ethnic minority communities, the largest federal contribution in the HBCU medical school’s history.
Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, made the announcement Tuesday during a hearing in front of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
“We’re not funding Morehouse to be the boots on the ground,” he said. “We’re funding them to be the brains behind the operation to really extend our network throughout the minority and underserved communities.”
The Atlanta-based school will receive the money over a three-year period to collaborate with community-based organizations around the country to educate populations and link them to resources and care. These organizations include 100 Black Men, Unidos US, the National Association of Community Health Workers, and the National Council of Urban Indian Health, according to Giroir. This network will help connect communities to testing, healthcare and social services, and recovery strategies.
The initiative — officially called the National Infrastructure for Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 within Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities (NIMIC) — will be housed within HHS Office of Minority Health. It will begin in July with a disbursement of $14.6 million.
“This new partnership between the Morehouse School of Medicine and our Office of Minority Health will work with trusted community organizations to bring information on COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and other services to the Americans who need it,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected minority communities. According to the CDC, a Black American is five times more likely to get infected than their white counterpart. In Washington D.C., for example, Black people make up 50% of positive cases but 80% of deaths.
“This work will create the opportunity to measure the effectiveness of interventions being deployed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19,” Morehouse School of Medicine President and Dean Valerie Montgomery Rice said in a statement. “The adoption and adaptation of these interventions to vulnerable communities creates a new paradigm for the creation of health equity.”
Dr. Dominic Mack, a professor and director of the National Center for Primary Care, said that Morehouse’s previous work with vulnerable communities and its status as a “multicultural institution” will provide valuable frameworks for this initiative.
“We have a wealth of experience in communities doing population-type health work that will carry over into the work we will be able to do with this grant,” he said.