• Podcast
  • Sep 09 2020

College of Nursing Researcher Partners with Churches to Address COVID-19, Health Disparities

A lack of access to proper care can heavily impact a community’s health. Recent studies have shed light on an area’s socioeconomic status being one of the most impactful social determinants of health in both urban and rural communities throughout Kentucky.

Whether looking at the rural Appalachian regions of the Commonwealth, or the outskirts of a metropolitan city such as Lexington, its community members share a commonality; prevalent health-related disparities.

Lovoria Williams, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Kentucky College of Nursing, has two recent interventional studies that highlight health disparities among minority and medically underserved populations in both Appalachia and predominately African American communities in Lexington.

Both “COVID-19 & Impact on Church” and “Enhancing the Diabetes Prevention Program to Promote Weight Loss Among Non-Responders in a Community-Based Lifestyle Intervention” seek recruitment through local churches due to their motivations to collaborate, a longing to build partnerships for a greater cause, and a passion to combat the health disparities their congregants may face.

“We chose to partner with them because they are a cohesive group that we can approach,” said Williams. "They’re all from different walks of life with various lived experiences and many churches have health as a part of their mission.”

Both projects share a key role of influence. Williams explains that by training individuals within each of the sites that it will provide a chance to continue the interventions once the grant periods have concluded.

The enhanced diabetes prevention program is an extension from a previous study and will involve 20 African American churches and community sites throughout Central Kentucky. This program will deliver a healthy lifestyle intervention to 500 community members and will offer extra support to those who do not initially see results.

“We want to focus on giving them this added attention in order to help them work through any barriers or challenges they may face toward changing their lifestyle,” Williams said. 

She attributes her urgency to improve the health of Kentuckians to the COVID-19 disparities and the information that she learned about the health inequities in Fayette County while she was serving as vice-chair of the Health Disparities Committee on Mayor Linda Gordon’s Commission for Racial Justice and Equality.

For the six-month COVID-19 related project, Williams hopes the data will result in obtaining information that can be used to inform officials about the unique barriers experienced by Appalachian and Black Kentuckians. This information can be used to influence public health decisions regarding the allocation of resources from local healthcare departments, develop stronger communicative efforts to educate community members on available preventative practices, COVID-19 testing and vaccination updates.

“If we know what the barriers in these communities are, then when we can head it off and move resources around to overcome them,” she said.

Although active recruitment for the COVID-19 study has concluded, Williams encourages local churches and community sites to join the diabetes prevention intervention. More information about Williams' research can be found on the UK College of Nursing page.