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Community Engagement Across the CTSA Program Consortium

The Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program institutions work hand in hand with community leaders to build strong relationships, understand community needs and improve community health. The CTSA Program institutions have long prioritized engaging communities in the research process. This commitment to community engagement accelerates clinical research, expands treatment delivery and speeds the response to public health challenges. For more information about CTSA Program community engagement efforts, download the community engagement fact sheet.

Identifying Treatments for COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, no approved treatments or vaccines were available to counteract SARS-CoV-2. NIH responded swiftly with the ACTIV initiative, a public-private partnership to prioritize and speed the development of the most promising treatments and vaccines. The ACTIV partnership has evaluated hundreds of available therapeutic agents with potential application for COVID-19 and has prioritized the most promising candidates for rigorous clinical trials. NCATS and its CTSA Program are taking a lead role in two ACTIV trials. The first is the ACTIV-1 Immune Modulator (IM) trial, which is evaluating three therapeutics that could restore balance to an overactive immune system in adults hospitalized with COVID-19. The CTSA Program institutions are applying their expertise to speed up clinical trial recruitment and expand the diversity of trial participants. Learn more about the ACTIV-1 IM trial and read the JAMA study on abatacept and infliximab.

The second trial is ACTIV-6, which will test several existing drugs that can be taken at home to see if the treatments provide safe, effective symptom relief in mild to moderate COVID-19 and prevent hospitalization. The CTSA Program institutions will help coordinate the trial and partner with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to expedite enrollment. Read more about the ACTIV-6 trial.

Broadening Community Participation in Clinical Research

Mistrust of medical research is a primary reason that underserved minority communities have low participation rates in clinical trials, despite the possible benefits. To find more volunteer participants in these communities, CTSA Program researchers at Yale University partnered with local faith-based and social services leaders in African-American and Latino communities to create the Yale Cultural Ambassadors Program. Through the program, local community leaders in the New Haven, Connecticut, region work with medical researchers to build trust within their communities by sharing information and providing access to clinical trials. As a result, Yale researchers saw an increase in minority clinical trial participation. The Program ambassadors’ engagement efforts also have helped change the perceptions of clinical research within their communities and increase participation in clinical studies for conditions ranging from prostate cancer to COVID-19. Read the latest news from the Yale Cultural Ambassadors Program to learn more.

Expanding Access to Diagnosis and Treatment

An innovative study conducted in partnership with Black churches highlights the need for additional outreach and education to reduce colorectal cancer screening disparities in Black communities. Researchers will apply lessons learned to develop community-based interventions that target disparities in an upcoming study. Read more.

Understanding and Alleviating Barriers to COVID-19 Testing

The nation’s underserved and vulnerable populations need accurate, fast, widely accessible COVID-19 testing to safely return to normal life. To meet that need, the NIH RADx initiative is speeding the development and use of innovative COVID-19 testing technologies. RADx is exploring new uses of existing technologies and moving more advanced diagnostic technologies swiftly and safely through development and into widespread community use. The NIH RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program is funding six CTSA Program institutions to gain a better understanding of, and alleviate barriers to, COVID-19 testing and to reduce the burden of the disease among underserved and vulnerable populations. Find out how RADx is bringing COVID-19 testing options to life faster. Read more.

Raising Awareness and Educating About COVID-19

CEAL engages community partners in areas of the country where the impact of COVID-19 has been greatest. CEAL’s goal is to reduce the burden of disease on the hardest hit communities, and the resources of the CTSA Program institutions are key to achieving that goal. Working directly with community partners, the institutions raise awareness about COVID-19, educate people about the pandemic, and continue to build trust and understanding. They also work to ensure that COVID-19 prevention and treatment clinical trials include racially and ethnically diverse communities most affected by the pandemic. Learn more about how CEAL, NIH and the CTSA Program institutions are working to bring COVID-19 answers to communities in need. Read more.

CTSA-Supported Community Engagement Tools

The CTSA Program has long been supporting community engagement efforts through the Trial Innovation Network and by developing and applying key principles to engaging patients and communities in every phase of the translational process.

The Trial Innovation Network provides resources from CTSA Program institutions and reputable community health partners conducting engagement, recruitment and retention activities for clinical trials and multi-site studies to the research community. Types of resources include COVID-19 recruitment and retention toolkits, best practices for conducting trials during the COVID-19 pandemic, a webinar for engaging racial and ethnic minority patient populations in COVID-19 clinical trials, and more.

Discover more about how NCATS’ CTSA Program supports collaborative initiatives that engage communities, expand clinical studies and translate scientific knowledge into community-based health solutions for COVID-19 and beyond.