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Coalition of Urban Serving Universities Announces First 2021 Racial Justice and Equity Award Winner

Washington, DC – Aiming to address racial injustice and inequity through university-city partnerships, the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) today named the University of Texas at Arlington as its inaugural Racial Justice and Equity Program Award Winner. UT Arlington will focus on improving health literacy to address inequities as part of its efforts to create a thriving community.

UT Arlington has worked to accelerate healthy literacy for pre-K-12 grade-level students through an easy-to-use COVID-19 navigator to present educational health information about the virus and ways to stay safe and healthy. A diverse team of multilingual researchers, educators, and students built the resource navigator, delivering curated content in English and Spanish to inform students and their families. These resources include public health practices and support to address students’ mental health, as well as resources on cases, strains, and vaccinations.

As a USU Racial Justice and Equity Program scholar, UT Arlington will build on its work and advance a community partnership model of outreach to Latino youth that empowers communities through participatory discussion. The university will build on findings from the CDC Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program. The programming will also incorporate vaccine information while working with youth Community Health Workers (CHWs) in Dallas high schools to understand and allay students’ concerns and share resources. The effort will be a collaboration between UT Arlington, Dallas Fort Worth Community Health Worker (DFW-CHW) Association, Health Literacy Texas, and La Alianza DFW.

“We’re thrilled to select the UT Arlington as our inaugural Racial Justice and Equity Award Winner,” said Christel Perkins, Deputy Executive Director at the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities and Assistant Vice President at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. “The pandemic has magnified gaping health inequities that still plague our country, and this leading-edge work will help tackle the structural drivers of these disparities.”

“UT Arlington is proud to be recognized as a model for public urban research universities that aim to address racial disparities in health care,” said Teik C. Lim, UT Arlington’s interim president. “By enhancing access to accurate health literature for the Latino community, our researchers will provide a critical service to an underrepresented population in North Texas and demonstrate effective health literacy strategies that can be utilized across the nation.”

The competition was open to USU’s entire membership of 39 public urban universities. In addition to naming the inaugural Racial Justice and Equity Award Winner, USU recognized two finalists for their innovative efforts. The University at Albany is leading efforts to tackle health disparities for culturally and linguistically diverse communities in New York State’s Capital Region through examination of evidence-based interventions that reduce health disparities and the dissemination evidence-based health messages. The University of Memphis is working to address racial and ethnic disparities in diabetes and obesity rates through a targeted public education campaign promoting the benefits of an active lifestyle.

USU’s Racial Justice and Equity Scholars Program will support urban university efforts in three thematic areas – thriving students, thriving universities, and thriving communities – to explicitly address policies that produce equity gaps. Award winners must directly partner with external organizations to advance their work. Each award winner will work closely with USU over the course of 12 months to collect data, monitor progress, evaluate outcomes, and disseminate project findings. USU will announce program scholars in the other thematic areas – thriving students, universities, and communities – later this year and early 2022. Each winner receives a $20,000 grant to further their efforts.

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