WSU researchers aim to increase COVID-19 testing for Native populations

Butch with face mask
Photo courtesy of Washington State University

SPOKANE, Wash. — Researchers from Washington State University are partnering with Urban Indian Health Programs in six major cities with large Native populations to help address that knowledge gap and bring resources to curb the COVID-19 crisis.

American Indian and Native Alaskan populations have been hit hard by the pandemic. They face several risk factors, including a high prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, multi-generational households and poor living conditions. Many also struggle with poverty and limited access to quality health care and education.

The new project, called COVID-19 Epidemiology, Research, Testing and Services or CONCERTS, is led by Dr. Dedra Buchwald, a physician and professor with WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. CONCERTS has received a $4.4 million National Institutes of Health grant, one of four recently received by College of Medicine researchers to help deal with aspects of COVID-19 crisis. Read about the others here.

Researchers will work to understand who has been tested already and what challenges exist to getting people tested and ultimately vaccinated. The grant will also fund new resources for each site to help promote testing depending on their locally determined needs.

“American Indian and Native Alaskan people are more knowledgeable about what is going on in their communities than outside researchers, and we want to make sure that we have good trusting relationships,” Buchwald said. “Our partners are really key to encouraging more people to get tested, and in the future, vaccinated, if determined to be desirable.”