Arizona Prevention Research Center Collaborates with Community Partners to Win NIH Funding Awards for Community-led Efforts

Dec. 13, 2023
field workers

Arizona Prevention Research Center Collaborates with Community Partners to Win NIH Funding Awards for Community-led Efforts



field workers

Two long-time community partners, the Southeast Arizona Health Education Center and Campesinos Sin Fronteras, working in close collaboration with the UArizona Prevention Research Center received awards from the new NIH ComPASS program designed to develop community-led efforts that target structural barriers to health.

Two long-time community partners, working in close collaboration with the Arizona Prevention Research Center (AzPRC) team and other UA faculty, received five year awards through the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society (ComPASS) program. The awards to Campesinos Sin Fronteras (CSF) and the Southeast Arizona Health Education Center (SEAHEC) will address structural barriers to health care access in the communities they serve.

The AzPRC, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has a 30-year history of partnering with community organizations and community health workers to address health disparities in in Southern Arizona. Housed in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, the AzPRC is guided by co-Directors Scott Carvajal, PhD, MPH, and Maia Ingram, MPH. The AzPRC team has built long-standing relationships with the communities they serve, and they are excited to see NIH-funded research that is centered in the community.

“As a research center committed to practicing community-based participatory research, our community partners are essential to designing and carrying out high quality research that focuses on community benefit,” said Maia Ingram, “We are thrilled that the NIH is recognizing the research expertise of our partners with these awards. The AzPRC will be in a supporting role to our partners as they work with their community members to address the most urgent issues and work toward health equity.”

Campesinos Sin Fronteras

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One of the NIH ComPASS awards of $6 million over the initial 5 years went to Campesinos Sin Fronteras (CSF) to develop, implement and assess a structural intervention addressing housing, worker safety, and quality health care with the farmworker community in the Yuma, Arizona area.

A grass-roots, non-profit social justice organization, CSF has earned a reputation as a relentless advocate of health equity for migrant and seasonal farmworkers. CSF provides comprehensive equity-centered programs and services that empower the most vulnerable communities to achieve a substantive improvement in their overall well-being. 

These new ComPASS program funds will allow CSF to administer a Community-Led Health Equity Structural Intervention Initiative (CHESI). Under the direction of CSF’s Executive Director, Mrs. Emma Torres, MSW, the CHESIs will develop, implement, assess, and disseminate co-created community-led, health equity structural interventions for the farmworker community. 

“I am honored that the NIH has entrusted Campesinos Sin Fronteras with this project and I commend the NIH and the ComPASS Team for recognizing that our vital farmworker community is disproportionately impacted by health disparities,” says Torres, “We applaud their willingness to invest in a culturally competent research approach to identify and address the structural barriers to health for this essential workforce that feeds our nation.”

Read the Campesinos Sin Fronteras press release

Southeast Arizona Health Education Center

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The other ComPASS award of $6 million over 5 years went to the Southeast Arizona Health Education Center (SEAHEC) to address barriers to mental and behavioral health services within under-served populations in Southeast Arizona. SEAHEC, a local health education agency operating in rural southeastern Arizona, works to improve health for rural and border communities, migrants, and farmworkers through advocacy, education, and action. The Center’s initiatives, partnerships, and programs are often delivered through community health workers (CHWs).

SEAHEC was established as part of the federally funded Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program in Arizona. After serving for more than 30 years as part of the Arizona AHEC program, SEAHEC has transitioned to a mission and vision more specifically focused on rural, border, and migrant health.

This new funding will enable SEAHEC and its partners to work directly with community members across Santa Cruz, Cochise, Graham, and Greenlee counties to better understand structural barriers to mental and behavioral health services.

Called ‘Proyecto Juntos/Project Together’, SEAHEC will partner with Cochise Health & Social Services, Graham County Health Department, the Arizona Community Health Worker Association, Canyonlands, Chiricahua and Mariposa Community Health Centers, Winchester Heights Health Organization, Pinal Hispanic Council, and the University of Arizona, to better understand and respond to barriers to services. Local community input and leadership will be key throughout the project's anticipated ten-year duration.  With local health equity research groups to be established in each county, community members will have their voices heard not only on barriers to care but also to help in the design and evaluation of strategies to address and resolve barriers to care.

Proyecto Juntos/Project Together anticipates addressing stigma as it relates to mental and behavioral health and health services, lack of transportation, lack of insurance, lack of care coordination, and lack of access to culturally and linguistically appropriate health resources, among other barriers.

“We are honored to be one of the select community-based organizations awarded the ComPASS funding,” says Gail Emrick, MPH, SEAHEC Executive Director, and Proyecto Juntos Principal Investigator, “We look forward to working with our trusted partner agencies and alongside our fellow community members to improve the health and wellbeing of our rural and border communities.”

Read the SEAHEC press release

A New Funding Program from NIH

The new community-led research ComPASS program provides NIH funds directly to community organizations to mobilize resources and engage multiple stakeholders in the implementation of structural interventions to promote health equity. To advance the science of health disparities and health equity research, the NIH Common Fund launched the ComPASS program with two key goals, first 1) to develop, share, and evaluate community-led health equity structural interventions that leverage partnerships across multiple sectors to reduce health disparities and 2) to develop a new health equity research model for community-led, multisectoral structural intervention research across NIH and other federal agencies.

"This work provides services and support to some of our most vulnerable communities here in Arizona, it is at the heart of our public health mission."

Dean Hakim

“The ComPASS program is an exciting development in national health efforts. They are funding 25 community organizations around the nation that reflect the voices of the people they serve,” said Dr. Carvajal, “These community organizations are often better positioned to address social determinants of health than universities, government agencies, and large health care providers.”

ComPASS also seeks to increase diversity and inclusion in research by cultivating community trust and partnerships, building research capacity among the community and relevant partners, and enhancing community organization competitiveness for future funding. The program aligns with other federal initiatives to end structural racism and serves as a launch pad for future efforts to eliminate health disparities and advance health equity.

A third NIH ComPASS grant also linked to the University of Arizona was awarded to the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board, and was supported by researcher Joe Hoover, PhD, MA, from the College of Agriculture, Life, and Environmental Sciences.

The Arizona Prevention Research Center is part of a national network of Prevention Research Centers (PRCs) funded by the CDC’s Prevention Research Center Program through the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. PRCs constitute a network of academic, community, and public health partners that conduct applied public health research. The Centers create health promotion and disease prevention strategies that bring long-term benefits to communities and also offer training and technical assistance to the public health community.

UArizona collaborators in addition to Dr. Carvajal and Maia Ingram, MPH, include Karina Duenas, MSW, Carlos Figueroa, Adriana Maldonado, PhD, Martha Moore-Monroy, EdD, MA, Jill Guernsey De Zapien, all in the Zuckerman College of Public Health, and Tim Sowicz, RN, PhD in the College of Nursing.

“I am so pleased that the team at the Arizona Prevention Research Center were able to work our longtime partners at SEAHEC and Campesinos Sin Fronteras to take advantage of this new funding program from NIH,” said Iman Hakim, MD, PhD, MPH, dean of the Zuckerman College of Public Health, “This work provides services and support to some of our most vulnerable communities here in Arizona, it is at the heart of our public health mission. Through these programs we are building health equity and changing lives.”