UI Assistant Professor Martha Carvour launches health equity projects

Carvour, one of the seven recipients who received funding through the public-private partnership known as P3, will use a three-year, $758,000 grant to alleviate inequities in health care among racial and ethnic minorities, as well as people who live in rural settings.


Grace Smith

The Roy J. And Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine pictured on Aug. 27, 2020.

Lillian Poulsen, News Reporter

Martha Carvour, assistant professor in the department of internal medicine, received funding from the University of Iowa to launch campus and community-wide projects that aim to alleviate inequities in health care.

“This is a really critically important time to think about health equity,” Carvour said. “The COVID pandemic has highlighted a lot of long-standing inequities in health care systems and in public health.”

According to the CDC, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including exposure to the virus, illness, hospitalization, and death are higher among racial and ethnic minority groups.

Carvour said the early years of the project will also focus on diabetes care, because COVID-19 made care more difficult and inaccessible for patients.

With the help of other colleges, community partners, and members of the Iowa community, Cavour’s team will use a three-year, $758,000 grant to address equity in health and science.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, Carvour was one of seven recipients who received funding through the public-private partnership known as P3.

RELATED: University of Iowa approves seven projects for P3 funding

Carvour’s team will focus on issues that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities, as well as, people who live in rural settings. The team plans to do this by working directly with these populations.

Martha Carvour (Contributed from University of Iowa Health Care)

“One of the core principles of doing community-engaged work is to not just design a plan and have people say yes or no to it,” Kimberly Dukes, a research assistant professor of internal medicine at the UI Carver College of Medicine, said. “Instead, we have to involve those community partners and those community partners from the beginning.”

Ebonee Johnson, assistant professor in the department of community and behavioral health at the UI College of Public Health, said the team plans to spend the first year of the project focused on non-healthcare, frontline workers in Iowa affected by inaccessible health care.

The Baker Teacher Leader Center in the UI College of Education is one of the campus partners that the team plans to work with, Johnson said.

“This [partnership] affords us the opportunity to listen to the lived experiences of teachers and other staff to figure out what we can do to better improve things, including access to personal protective equipment and vaccine rollout access,” Johnson said.

Dukes said they also plan on collaborating with community partners, including the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa and the UI College of Law’s Labor Center.

“Both these organizations have long-standing relationships with Iowa’s workers,” Dukes said. “They’re going to be really important in connecting us with actual workers who may benefit from an intervention ensuring that they have safe working conditions and access to health care.”

RELATED: Black leaders, public health experts look to build trust in COVID-19 vaccine

Dukes, Johnson, and Carvour plan to create sustainable infrastructure, so people can use the systems and changes for years to come.

Johnson said they intend to develop a better understanding of what communities and individuals need based on structured interviews and surveys via email.

“We want to know what are some strengths, what are some of those things that are working in those communities that we can amplify, and then what are some things that aren’t working there in terms of individual behavior and structural factors,” Johnson said.

Dukes said they plan to create an advisory council that will have representatives from different community partners and community members.

“I think a lot of times research happens in a way that is the institution to the community,” Dukes said. “We’re really invested in making sure that it’s not one-directional, that the community partners and collaborators are equal partners in designing and carrying out the work.

Carvour said she’s excited about this project and how they can research while they work to alleviate these health care disparities in Iowa.

“As researchers in our own specific project, but also broadly in terms of health care, public health, and the systems we set up, it is our responsibility to make our system fair and trustworthy,” Carvour said. “One way to demonstrate our own commitment to this is to not just collect data on the problem, but do something about the problem.”