The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement has received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to plan an initiative focused on improving health and economic outcomes in the Delta.
A coalition of organizations in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi intends to spend up to 18 months developing the plan, which will "harness the region’s strengths to address its key disparities," ACHI said in a news release. ACHI will then apply for additional NSF funding to implement the initiative.
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.
ACHI is partnering with the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership, the Mississippi-based Delta Health Alliance, Mississippi-based HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation, Hope Credit Union, and Hope Policy Institute), the Louisiana Public Health Institute, and the Louisiana-based Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
“The Mississippi Delta region faces many longstanding challenges, including inadequate food availability, high rates of chronic disease, and limited health care access,” ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson said in the release. “This is a transformational investment in the region, and we hope this first joint effort of partners in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi will lead to solutions that will improve health and economic outcomes for these communities.”
The grant is part of NSF’s Regional Innovation Engines program.