Background: 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. Although there is much research being conducted as a result of COVID-19, there is still a large gap in the number of African Americans participating in mental health research. In addition, health literacy, and especially digital health literacy, is an ongoing area of concern within the African-American community, especially as many mental health interventions have been delivered through telehealth modalities during the pandemic, as the reliance on telehealth technology was clearly demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, 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.
Proposed Solution to the Problem: The project team proposes a learning community approach that will involve multiple stakeholders’ perspectives to identify research priorities in the context of using digital health to improve mental health concerns of African Americans impacted by COVID-19 in Buffalo, New York.
Objectives: The overall objective is to build the research capacity of community stakeholders to be meaningful partners in PCOR/CER related to the use of technology to address the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and well-being among African Americans.
Specific objectives are:
• Establish a stakeholder steering committee to guide the project
• Engage community stakeholder so that they are ready to be equitable partners in various stages of future PCOR/CER projects
• Understand stakeholders’ preferences and values for digital mental health interventions, and identify their engagement needs and research priorities
• Create a toolkit that includes engagement strategies regarding PCOR/CER related to the use of digital mental health for African Americans
Activities: Project activities include regular meetings with stakeholders, workshops using community engagement studio, developing a toolkit with detailed engagement strategies, satisfaction surveys and interviews to evaluate stakeholders’ engagement experience, and dissemination.
Projected Outcomes and Outputs: The expected project outcomes and outputs are as follows:
Short-term outcomes: During the PCORI-funded project period, the project outcomes will include an active and motivated steering committee consisting of diverse stakeholder groups with experience that are prepared to collaborate in PCOR and CER, addressing priorities, values, and preferences related to mental health interventions and outcomes that matter most to the African-American community; a summary of stakeholders’ needs, values, and preferences, as well as a telehealth or technology-enhanced intervention for mental health PCOR research agenda that is driven by the stakeholders to be detailed in a report for broad dissemination; and development of a strategy toolkit co-created by patients and stakeholders for wider dissemination.
Medium-term outcomes (after the project period): The project team will continue to disseminate the project outcomes through various outlets. The expectation is that the toolkit produced through this project will be adopted or further expanded by researchers related to PCOR/CER in an effort to increase engagement in research by underrepresented groups that can be shared and replicated in African-American communities beyond Buffalo, New York. In short, the medium-term outcome is to increase research capacity and involvement in genomic PCOR.
Long-term outcomes (after the project period): The long-term outcome is the growth and independent sustainability of an engaged and motivated community of stakeholders that actively participate in and build a CER infrastructure. It is the intention that this group will pursue and participate in PCOR on their own, or in partnership with other research entities, not limited to the University at Buffalo or the School of Nursing.
Patient and Stakeholder Engagement Plan: The team will include 10 key stakeholders (patients, healthcare 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 been, and will continue to be, critical for its success.
Project Collaborators: The UB School of Nursing will be collaborating 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.