USA Center for Healthy Communities Research Core


There is a great need for concern regarding the healthcare of several groups of people in Metropolitan Mobile and the Gulf Coast Region (which includes Southern Alabama, Southeast Mississippi and Southwest Florida). In fact, these areas have some of the most desperate health concerns in the country. The health disparities in the region's large African American population in many instances exceed the national average. Similar problems persist in the area's Native American and growing Hispanic and Asian communities. The region also has a growing senior population with unique health needs and concerns that must be addressed as well. These and other special needs of people in the Gulf Coast Region constitute challenges and opportunities for the University of South Alabama to help develop healthy communities and improve the lives of people it serves.

Exemplifying their strong desire to alleviate such health disparities, USA introduced the Center for Healthy Communities (CHC). By providing research, analysis and information on matters of community health and building partnerships to foster healthier communities, the CHC is striving to improve the quality of healthcare, and thus life, for individuals in Mobile and surrounding areas.


As a fundamental component of the Center for Healthy Communities and the Center for Excellence the RESEARCH CORE supports and develops efforts aimed at increasing and supporting quality, impactful research focused on the elimination of health disparities in the South Alabama region.  Currently the main efforts of the research core are focused on examining access to healthcare, health promotion, and disease prevention.   The main activities of the core include:

  1. To foster the consolidation of the Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG) as a vehicle for the generation of Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) projects aiming at the attainment of health equality; and
  2. To provide ongoing conceptual and practical support for the active research projects.


▼   Current Research Projects

All of US Research Program

All of Us BannerThe All of Us Research Program is a new research program! The goal is to learn how differences between us might lead to different types of treatments.

We want one million or more people to join. People who join will share information. This might be about their health, habits, and what it's like where they live. It might also be about family history and genes,

Taking part is free, and won't cost you anything more than a little of your time. And as a token of appreciation we will gift you with $25 cash.

The program will last for at least 10 years as researchers learn new things to make discoveries. All of the information shared will be kept private and safe.

Researchers will use this information to do studies. This may help improve health for everyone. To learn more, please visit or call (251) 471-7708.

To enroll, you may visit the Department of Family Medicine located at the Strada Patient Care Center located at 1601 Center Street, Mobile, AL 36604.

DNA Healing and Disease Prevention

Illustration of DNAPrincipal Investigator: Dr. Robert W. Sobol, Point Clear Charities Professor, Department of Pharmacology (USA College of Medicine) and leader of the Molecular & Metabolic Oncology Program at the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute

Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Martha Arrieta, Associate Professor, College of Medicine

DNA Healing and Disease Prevention is a research study that examines the health of an individual’s DNA. By participating, one will help grow the understanding of how the body heals DNA and increase the development of treatments for diseases, as well as disease prevention.

At the present time, study participation is by invitation only. To be a participant, you must be between the ages of 18-85, be in fair health, and be a resident in one of the following zip codes: 36602, 36603, 36604, 36605, 36606, 36607, 36610, 36612, 36613, or 36617. You will be asked to answer a short health interview, provide body measurements, and give a blood sample (approximately two tablespoons). You must also return in two years for a follow-up visit.

The study consists of an informational meeting conducted at the Center for Healthy Communities (211 N. Catherine St), and a data collection at USA Mastin Internal Medicine Clinic (2451 University Hospital Dr.). All information shared and data collected will be protected and secured by the research investigators and staff.

If you received an invitation and want to learn more information, call the USA Health Center for Healthy Communities at (251) 414-8001 or email

This research is supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U01ES029518.

▼   Previous Research Projects

Sentinel Surveillance to Monitor Progress Towards Health Equity

PI: Dr. Martha Arrieta, Associate Professor, College of Medicine

Goal: To develop and implement a surveillance system to capture the information necessary to monitor progress towards health equity for health disparate populations.

Key Components:

  • Community Advisory Group
  • Survey implementation (health access, health IQ, health behaviors, chronic diseases and management, etc.)
  • Research Apprentices

The Impact of Labor Force/Labor Market Status On Access To Healthcare

PI: Dr. Ken Hudson, Associate Professor of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences

Examines how the employment and labor market status of individual family members affect the family’s ability to obtain health insurance and healthcare.

Key Focus: Good job vs. bad job vs. intermediary job

Heat Shock Protein 27 (HSP27) as a Marker of Atherosclerosis

PI: Dr. Bill Gerthoffer, Professor and Chair of Department of Biochemistry

Addresses lack of accurate predictive biomarkers of plaque instability, particularly in health disparate populations.

Key Focus: Translational research project done in collaboration with Division of Cardiology.

▼   Health Disparities Research Group

The Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG) of the Center for Healthy Communities is a multidisciplinary assembly of faculty, students, and staff with a vision “to become an integral facilitator in eliminating health disparities through partnerships with our community”. HDRG generates hypothesis driven work from HDRG members and from the broader research community and provides support for Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR).

Through the CBPR dissemination effort HDRG provides leadership to consolidate and expand CBPR efforts at university and in the community. It is focused on educating interested faculty and community organizations on CBPR, bringing awareness to on-going CBPR efforts, and to disseminating this type of research at local, state, and regional levels. We know that developing a strong CBPR foundation within the University can be both mutually beneficial and critical to bridging the gap between the community and traditional academic research. By utilizing the strengths of CBPR practice, we have the opportunity to conduct more effective and impactful research studies, while also broadening active and dynamic partnerships between academia and community. 

HDRG’s CBPR Objectives

  1. Define an effective CBPR model and set of tools necessary to disseminate CBPR at Local, State, and Regional Levels.
  2. Initiate structured documentation of the CBPR dissemination team process and predicted outcomes.
  3. Define a process and outcome evaluation paradigm of HDRG experiences in a dissemination effort.

The HDRG is recognized within the broader University of South Alabama Community as a “Research Cluster” collaboration hub. The HDRG Research Cluster Map [PDF] provides a visual representation of HDRG’s multidisciplinary impact and can be viewed on the USA Office of Research and Economic Development website.

Publications Related to HDRG

Arrieta, M. I. M., Hanks, R., & Bryan, N. B. (2008). Establishing a Multidisciplinary Academic Group to Address Health Disparities. Journal of the Medical Sciences, 335(4), 275–277.

Arrieta, M. I., Fisher, L., Shaw, T., Bryan, V., Hudson, A., Hansberry, S., … Crook, E. (2017). Consolidating the Academic End of a Community-Based Participatory Research Venture to Address Health Disparities. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 21(3), 113–134.


HDRG meets monthly at 1p.m. on the 3rd Friday of each month throughout the academic year.  These meetings are open to all who are interested to working to reduce health disparities in our community. Browse the minutes from past meetings. Read blog articles reporting on HDRG meetings. For more information please contact Dr. Martha Arrieta.

▼   HDRG Videos

Health Disparities Research Group May 2017 Meeting

Health Disparities Research Group May 2017 Meeting from USA Health on Vimeo.


2016-2017 Community Health Needs Assessment

2016 - 2017 Community Health Needs Assessment_Tommy Shaw from USA Health on Vimeo.


Health Disparities Research Group September 2016 Meeting

Health Disparities Research Group September 2016 Meeting from USA Health on Vimeo.


Project Homeless Connect Presentation

Project Homeless Connect Presentation from USA Health on Vimeo.