CDC Foundation awards JSU $420K to curb high COVID-19 infections among Blacks

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The CDC Foundation has entered a cooperative agreement with Jackson State University, providing $420,000 to develop a marketing campaign this fall to reduce and prevent the disproportionate COVID-19 transmissions among African Americans ages 18-29 in Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties. These three counties have experienced the highest rate of transmissions in Mississippi.

Hinds County, where Blacks comprise 73 percent of the population, had the most infections in the Magnolia state at 5,100 over the summer. And, even though the number of Blacks are far fewer in Madison and Rankin counties, their COVID-19 cases were disturbingly higher at 28.8 percent and 52.4 percent, respectively, than that of whites.

To date, 1,483 Blacks have died in Mississippi compared to 1,590 whites, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health. To put those numbers in greater perspective, the Black population in Mississippi is 37.8 percent versus 59.1 percent for whites. So, JSU experts say the infection and death rates are alarming, particularly among Blacks.

JSU, with support from the CDC Foundation, is implementing this wide-reaching campaign to counter these health disparities and raise awareness and change behaviors to combat COVID-19.

Dr. Girmay Berhie, dean of the College of Health Sciences and the principal investigator, said, “The JSU School of Public Health was designed for crises such as these that threaten the health of our population – not to mention the impact the pandemic is having on the economy. Our new upcoming PR, marketing and digital campaigns funded by the CDC Foundation will aim to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the heavily affected 18-29 African American age group. Sadly, older Blacks are at a very high risk for COVID-19, so we must reduce or eliminate the spread of this coronavirus. JSU’s TV, radio, billboard and digital messaging will further emphasize precautions such as wearing masks, hand washing and social distancing.”

Aside from efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, media campaigns by JSU also will address economic, social and secondary health consequences of the disease. Focus also will be placed on pre-existing and underlying health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

Additional partners have been enlisted for the health campaigns. They include faith-based organizations, the Mississippi State Department of Health, municipal governments, community leaders and other educational institutions.

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