Project Will Engage NYCHA Residents in COVID Screening Solutions

Health care professional wearing face mask, face shield, and gloves holding swab for COVID-19 testing
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Researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and NYU School of Global Public Health were awarded a $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support community-engaged research to improve COVID-19 testing for New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents. The two-year project is funded by the NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program, which supports projects designed to quickly implement COVID-19 testing strategies in populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The research builds upon the team’s current NIH-funded work to evaluate the health impact of smoke-free housing policies, which has fostered a longstanding set of partnerships between NYU, NYCHA and their resident boards, city agencies, and community organizations.

The study will be co-led by three principal investigators: Lorna Thorpe and Natasha Williams of the Department of Population Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Donna Shelley of NYU School of Global Public Health.

NYCHA is the largest public housing authority in North America, with 400,000 residents living in 15 percent of the nation’s public housing units. Developments—which are spread throughout the city but concentrated in lower-income neighborhoods—have organized resident associations, which facilitate capacity for sustained engagement and opportunities for community activation. Approximately 90 percent of NYCHA residents are Black or Hispanic, a population that has borne a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The new study will develop a structure for partnering with community-based organizations, NYCHA resident associations, and city agencies to guide COVID-19 testing and vaccination options for public housing residents. The researchers will compare community-informed strategies to increase COVID-19 testing uptake, including on-site testing clinics, mobile vans, and door-to-door testing, to determine which most improve screening rates.

The researchers will also measure the rates of COVID-19 infection and testing among public housing residents, and determine what barriers they experience to COVID-19 testing, isolation, and follow-up care.

“This study offers an unparalleled opportunity to identify effective strategies to reduce disparities in COVID risk and health outcomes in a large, high-need population, while giving NYCHA residents a voice in shaping these initiatives. Our findings can be used to develop guidance for implementing testing strategies in public housing settings nationally,” said Shelley.

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