photo of the wexner medical center

Ohio State received a $5 million grant from the National Institute of Health to research COVID-19 testing in marginalized populations. Credit: Adreyn Yates | For the Lantern

Ohio State received a $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund projects involving COVID-19 testing for populations disproportionately impacted by the virus, according to a Wednesday press release from the Wexner Medical Center James Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The two-year award is part of an NIH initiative the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations which seeks to understand COVID-19 testing patterns among marginalized populations and diminish disparities in COVID-19 testing, treatment and contact tracing, the press release states.

“We decided to pursue this opportunity to benefit the residents of Ohio, especially minority and vulnerable populations who bear the brunt of COVID and its impacts in all facets of life,” Electra Paskett, director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control in the Department of Internal Medicine at Ohio State’s College of Medicine, said in the release.

Ohio State is one of the 32 institutions to receive NIH funding for these projects to help Black, indigenous, Latino, older, pregnant, homeless and incarcerated populations.

Black Ohioans account for about 20 percent of COVID-19 cases in the state, but only comprise 13.1 of Ohio’s population, according to the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard. Latino Ohioans account for about 6 percent of COVID-19 cases in the state, but only 4 percent of Ohio’s population.

The team of more than a dozen investigators, representing the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Medicine, Public Health and the John Glenn College of Public Affairs; Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the state of Ohio, will target 12 counties — six urban and six rural — in Ohio that have high concentrations of marginalized populations and lack COVID-19 testing sites, the release states. 

The urban at-risk counties include Butler, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Jefferson, Lucas and Trumbull counties. The rural counties include Hardin, Meigs, Muskingum, Ross, Scioto and Washington counties.

“It is critical that all Americans have access to rapid, accurate diagnostics for COVID-19, especially underserved and vulnerable populations who are bearing the brunt of this disease,” NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins said. “The RADx-UP program will help us better understand and alleviate the barriers to testing for those most vulnerable and reduce the burden of this disease.”