$5 Million Prize Will Establish Imperial County Clinical Research Network to Address Health Disparities | Information Center

San Diego State University, SDSU Imperial Valley and El Centro Regional Medical Center (ECRMC) received a $5 millionmillion cooperative agreement awarded by a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to address health inequities in the region. Over five years, the funds will help establish the Imperial County Clinical Research Network (ICCRN), a partnership between SDSU HealthLINK Center, SDSU IV (RISE) Center and ECRMC.

SDSU Professor of Public Health Guadalupe X. Ayala, SDSU Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Nursing Helina Hoyt and clinical director of ECRMC Suzanne Martinez are the principal investigators.

ICCRN will develop an infrastructure of personnel, policies and procedures to strengthen science-based clinical research capacity at the ECRMC. The medical center serves a rural farming community near the US-Mexico border, which has different public health needs than more urban areas like San Diego.

“It’s a very fluid border community, and it struggles with persistent poverty. The median household income is lower than other areas of the state,” Hoyt said. “There has been a decline in education and we have a shortage of health care providers. We had these issues before, but COVID has really amplified them. And I think that’s why, especially right now, we often have a higher disease burden. »

The 2022-24 phase of the NIH National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) award will establish ICCRN and create patient, clinician, and community advisory committees to guide research priorities, as well as identify infrastructure needed to launch two pilot projects.

The goal of the first pilot project is to study the benefits of promoting breastfeeding and prenatal care to families to prevent childhood obesity, which is rampant in the Imperial Valley, according to Adolphe Edward, Director General of the ECRMC. The program will support lactation efforts in postpartum mothers and their families, and “ultimately improve the health and nutrition of our newborns and children,” he added.

The project was chosen due to a previously identified public health need to address the low rates of breastfeeding in the valley. The second pilot project will be selected through a competitive process. Hoyt says both projects will provide lessons that could improve best practices.

“We want to be able to continuously review what’s working, what we need to adjust, and then be able to establish those teams and those systems to support what we learn,” Hoyt said. “During this first phase, we hope to generate lessons on how to quickly share results between local, regional, national and cross-border partners. Our goal is to identify relevant, feasible, sustainable, and potentially translatable approaches to promoting health and well-being in other communities like ours. What we learn can quickly change policies and practices.

The second phase of the award, for 2024-27, will further refine the ICCRN infrastructure needed to support clinical research, evaluate the implementation of pilot projects and develop systems to share data equitably between researchers and partners . Locally developed protocols will be shared with a second network site affiliated with the Research Application Network of Minority Settlements Research Centers and a coordinating center.

“Ultimately, our goal is to inform the development of research protocols relevant to organizations in rural and border communities,” Ayala said. She added, “Organizations operating in low-resource communities need research protocols that take this context into account.

SDSU Imperial Valley and SDSU students will have the opportunity to be involved for the duration of the cooperative agreement. Registered nurses pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing and graduate students pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in public health will attend research council meetings and develop presentations and manuscripts about the efforts of local leaders. Nursing students will also attend meetings and work on projects. Those who complete a master’s degree in nursing leadership will have the opportunity to integrate clinical time within the ECRMC to carry out evidence-based research projects. Students will be encouraged to serve the community after graduation.

“This is a unique opportunity and I appreciate NIMHD’s approach to helping us build the research infrastructure at SDSU, and now, more formally, at SDSU Imperial Valley,” Ayala said. “But more importantly, through the Lactation Support Program, we hope to find ways to help Imperial County families get the best possible start.

“I think the main thing we’re excited about is that we have a common vision,” Hoyt said. It is truly a community-clinic-academic partnership if there ever was one along the rural border area of ​​Imperial County.

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