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by Abby Arcuri

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) formed the Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities. CEAL teams work closely with the communities hit hardest by COVID-19.

One such team is based in North Carolina. NC CEAL began because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the group continues to spread reliable health information. NC CEAL is particularly focused on sharing information with groups with less access to healthcare.

One research focus for NC CEAL is spreading information about clinical trials. In the past, there has been mistrust in clinical trials. This mistrust shows up in many groups. It can be a particular concern for Black communities and other communities of color.

Some of NC CEAL’s research focuses on sharing new policies in trials with these communities. The new policies were put in place to protect their rights.

Policies include making sure participants know any risks and how they will benefit. Participants are also allowed to leave the study at any time, without any penalties. They make sure those involved have all this information before they sign up.

Lisa Paulin and Tianduo Zhang are part of NC CEAL. They recently told us more about the coalition’s research. And, they let us know about their upcoming presentation at the American Public Health Association (APHA) Expo.

Paulin is on the communications team at NC CEAL. She works making sure information goes to and from African-American communities in North Carolina. Paulin currently works at North Carolina Central University (NCCU).  She earned her Ph.D. in Journalism and Mass Communications from UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media in 2007.

Paulin says that their work is very important now. That’s because COVID-19 cases are rising again. With the rise, it is essential to give the public the correct information about COVID-19.

So, NC CEAL creates materials to spread this information. These include videos and coloring books. The materials include health information for communities that may struggle to access information that’s easy to get in other communities.

In the video “What is a clinical trial?,” Kimberley Pierce Cartwright walks through a brief history of clinical trials. In their coloring book, NC CEAL shares information about COVID-19. The coloring book is designed to help children understand COVID-19 vaccines.

Tianduo Zhang is an Assistant Professor of Mass Communications at NCCU. At NCCU, she leads the Health Communications program. She is also part of the research team working with NC CEAL.

Moving forward, Zhang wants to use their study for other purposes. They can use what they learned about COVID-19 in other areas. She wants to apply it in communities with less facility with English.

Zhang intends to use the research to see how their communication has changed because of technology.

This year is NC CEAL’s first time presenting at the APHA Expo. So, Paulin and Zhang are excited about going. At the expo, they’ll present research on African Americans’ views on clinical trials.

The APHA Expo will be November 12-15, 2023. Headed to Atlanta? Don’t miss NC CEAL’s presentation on November 12, 2023.

Explore the APHA Expo.