LOUISIANA (WNTZ) ― A coalition of organizations in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi will use a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to promote improved and equitable health and economic outcomes in the Mississippi Delta regions of those states, the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) announced Thursday.
The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) is the recipient of the planning grant, entitled NSF Engines Development Award: Advancing Equitable Access to Food and Health Technologies in the Delta. ACHI will lead the tri-state effort, partnering with the Louisiana Public Health Institute, the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership, the Mississippi-based Delta Health Alliance, Mississippi-based HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation, Hope Credit Union, and Hope Policy Institute), and the Louisiana-based Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
“As someone with deep ancestral roots in the Mississippi Delta region, I am so excited for LPHI to play a role in this transformational investment. There are abundant opportunities for us to lift up, work alongside, and learn from these communities who have experienced challenges since this country’s inception,” said LPHI CEO Shelina Davis. “We envision that this partnership across communities in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi will lead to innovations and solutions that will ultimately improve the overall health and wealth of the region.”
The coalition intends to spend up to 18 months developing a plan for an initiative that will harness the region’s strengths to address its key disparities. ACHI will then apply for additional NSF funding to implement the initiative, which the coalition expects to focus on three areas:
- Development and testing of new telehealth models and digital tools that can be embedded in the home and across rural clinical and pharmacy sites, taking advantage of modern advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data science. The initiative will also provide the resources and infrastructure to train and increase fluency in virtual care among health care professionals, community health workers, and patients.
- Development of more effective methods for production, distribution, and accessibility of fresh, healthy food, including the development of new business models that integrate food as medicine with existing and emerging health care delivery, and advancements in precision agriculture.
- Design, development, and manufacture of over-the-counter or pharmacy-administered diagnostic materials and therapeutics, with a focus on innovations, advancements, and infrastructure that improve health care for underserved populations.
The grant is part of NSF’s Regional Innovation Engines program. Authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the program is designed to reach geographic areas that have not fully benefited from the technology boom of the past decades. More information is available on NSF’s website at beta.nsf.gov/funding/initiatives/regional-innovation-engines and on ACHI’s website at achi.net/nsf.
“These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation. Through these planning awards, NSF is seeding the future for in-place innovation in communities and to grow their regional economies through research and partnerships. This will unleash ideas, talent, pathways, and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation.”
Key personnel involved in the effort are:
• Dr. Joe Thompson, president and CEO of ACHI
• Danielle Taylor, executive director of ACHI
• Mellie Boagni Bridewell, president of the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership
• Dr. Karen Matthews, president and CEO of the Delta Health Alliance
• Charity Hallman, senior vice president of community and economic development for HOPE
• Shelina Davis, CEO of the Louisiana Public Health Institute
• Dr. De’Shoin A. York, vice chancellor of extension and outreach for the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center
LPHI is a statewide 501(c)(3) nonprofit public health institute that has proudly served the residents of Louisiana for over 25 years. As the public health landscape shifts and changes at an ever-quickening pace, LPHI’s role is to be both responsive to the immediate public health needs of Louisiana residents and to create an environment for long-term public health improvements. LPHI has four priority areas as part of its strategic plan, including Racial Justice and Health Equity, Partnerships and Collaboration, A Healthier Louisiana, and A Thriving Organization, and aims to help all Louisianans achieve their full potential for health and wellness. For more information, visit lphi.org.