Author: Caroline Schmidt
The RADx tech (Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics) initiative is a program that works towards increasing the speed and accuracy of COVID-19 tests. The RADx-UP (Underserved Populations) program focuses on identifying and strengthening testing patterns in underserved populations. Some of these groups include African Americans, American Indians, Hawaiian and Alaskan Natives, and pregnant women. These groups are generally more prone to COVID-19, most likely because of underlying health conditions and exposure from the places they live and the places they work. Many people in these groups also congregate with others in their homes and workplaces. An increased risk of COVID-19 also results from poor access to healthcare. “In 2017, according to the CDC only about 6% of non-Hispanic white people were uninsured, while the rate was nearly 18% for Hispanics and 10% for non-Hispanic Black people" (Mayo Clinic). Racism is a major factor in the reason that many people from minority groups are at higher risk during this pandemic.
The National Institutes of Health has given RADx-UP a $234 million grant. They are using existing research to figure out how to expand testing. First of all, collaborative clinical research is being done between programs to figure out how to increase the accessibility and utilization of tests. Also, projects are being done that focus on how certain factors and beliefs influence people’s inclination to be tested. Lastly, a coordination and data collection center at Duke University in North Carolina is deciding how to facilitate the administration and the distribution of tests in this project. So far, the funding is enough to support 32 institutions. Researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham have been able to implement this project in local communities. These researchers will work collaboratively with clinical and community partners to determine the factors that cause the shocking COVID-19 statistics in underserved populations. In the future, new testing approaches, therapies, and vaccines will be integrated into the project. It is very important for everyone to have access to rapid and reliable testing, and this new program is taking initiative to help eliminate unequal access to tests during these hard times.