Nursing researchers to study mental health among Buffalo’s underserved

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Release date: December 17, 2021


The School of Nursing will administer $200,000 in funding to help underserved and racial minorities find better mental health during and after COVID-19.

The award from the independent and non-profit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is the second PCORI grant UB’s nursing school earned this academic year.

UB researchers will establish a learning-community approach involving multiple stakeholders’ perspectives to identify research priorities using digital health to improve mental health concerns among African Americans living in Buffalo who were affected by COVID-19.

“The impact of COVID-19 on mental health is particularly serious for African Americans, not only because they have been disproportionately impacted by the disease, but they also are traditionally less engaged in mental health treatment,” says principal investigator Yu-Ping Chang, senior associate dean in the School of Nursing.

“Although there is much research being conducted as a result of COVID, there is still a large gap in the number of African Americans participating in mental health research,” Chang says.

UB researchers also identified health literacy — and especially digital health literacy — as an ongoing area of concern within the African-American community.

The need to address digital health literacy is of the upmost importance, researchers say, as the pandemic has caused many mental health interventions that may have normally been delivered in person to move to a telehealth delivery method. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how useful telehealth technology is, and its importance as a health-related tool will only grow moving forward.

“Therefore,” says Chang, “there is an urgent need to build the capacity for African-American residents, especially from low-income urban communities, to be active and equal partners in research, as their involvement can shape effective, culturally responsive digital interventions and policy to promote improved mental health and social well-being."

The project’s engagement plan will include 10 key stakeholders — including patients, health care providers, community leaders and members — from the African-American communities in the city of Buffalo. Inclusion of African-American leadership in the planning and implementation of this project has, and will continue to be, critical for its success, researchers say.

Specifically, stakeholders in the engagement project will learn about the process of generating and prioritizing research ideas by participating in a series of workshops. The team will also evaluate the use of technology for underserved populations, and will ultimately develop a toolkit that will include engagement strategies regarding patient-centered outcomes related to the use of telehealth or technology-enhanced interventions for improving mental health for Buffalo’s African American community.

“Our long-term outcome is the growth and independent sustainability of an engaged and motivated community of stakeholders that actively participate in and build a comparative effectiveness research infrastructure,” Chang explains. “It is the intention that this group will pursue and participate in patient-centered outcomes research on their own, or in partnership with other research entities, not limited to the University at Buffalo or the School of Nursing.”

The School of Nursing will collaborate with the African American Health Equity Task Force, the Buffalo Center for Health Equity, the UB Community Health Equity Research Institute, and Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church. Additional collaborators will be recruited as the project moves forward.

The 18-month grant from PCORI comes just a few months after the nursing school received a $2.5 million PCORI award to help adults living in low-income, racial- and ethnic-minority neighborhoods reduce stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

global goals.

Sustainable Development Goals:

3. Good Health & Wellbeing

4. Quality Education

10. Reduced Inequalities