$3.9 Million Grant to Reduce Health Disparities Among Minority Populations

The funding will support a two-year project that launches July 1.

Black doctor vaccinating Asian boy

Northwest Arkansas institutions have received a $3.9 million grant to improve health literacy and reduce health disparities among Latino and Marshallese communities, and those most at risk for health disparities.

Benton County partnered with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to apply for the Reaching Everyone to Achieve Community Health (REACH) grant in April 2021. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Public Health and Science awarded Benton County the grant in late June 2021. The project period runs from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2023. 

Benton County, UAMS, the Northwest Arkansas Council’s Health Care Transformation Division and Washington County will work together to promote public health messages within Benton and Washington County. These partners will develop and implement a health literacy plan to improve health among those who were hit hardest by COVID-19. 

Materials from the health education campaign will be culturally and linguistically appropriate and will seek to increase appropriate health literacy practices and intervention resources for vulnerable communities, according to a press release.

“We look forward to partnering with Benton and Washington Counties and community health care providers throughout Northwest Arkansas to increase health literacy related to COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccination,” said UAMS Northwest vice chancellor Pearl McElfish. “Our partnership will also focus on other community health and prevention efforts such as flu, diabetes and cardiovascular disease as we seek to make Benton and Washington Counties the healthiest place in the nation.”

In June 2020, the disparities amid COVID-19 deaths in Northwest Arkansas were so stark the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came to the region to investigate. Of all adult COVID-19 cases in Northwest Arkansas, the CDC reported 45 percent were Latino and 19 percent were Marshallese. These populations only account for 17 percent and 1.6 percent of the region’s population, respectively. 

“COVID-19 exposed racial and ethnic public health disparities in our region during the last year and a half. These federal funds will be used at a local level in the next stage of the pandemic to reach those most impacted by the virus,” Benton County Judge Barry Moehring said. “Whether addressing the lingering effects of COVID-19 or the larger scope of overall health literacy, this grant is a crucial next step for keeping our community safe.”   

This grant was awarded as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act. Benton County acted as the lead applicant, while UAMS and other organizations will implement the larger health strategy.