Explore the HADSI Health Disparities Research:

Health Equity Collaborative of Virginia Vision (Previously known as the Regional Health Disparities Forum)


  • Health disparities can be defined as significant gaps or differences in the overall rates of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity, mortality, or survival in a given population compared with the health status of the general population.2 The goal of eliminating health disparities cannot be accomplished by a single sector, institution or agency. Furthermore, it is recognized that the causes of health disparities are complex and multifactorial and stem from not only the healthcare sector but also the social determinants of health (i.e., the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age). Sustainable multi-academic-healthcare systems, as well as public and private partnerships, exemplify the importance of the collaborative engagement needed to accomplish this goal.
  • In September 2020, the EVMS-Sentara Healthcare Analytics and Delivery Science Institute (HADSI) put together a Regional Health Disparity Forum to reduce and eventually eliminate disparities in health and healthcare by promoting greater scientific collaboration among Virginia’s academic institutions and healthcare partners. Given the complexity involved in eliminating health disparities, there is a need for more transdisciplinary, collaborative work. This organization stimulates interest and offers opportunities for collaborations and partnerships. Further, this group provides an opportunity to work collaboratively to ensure health disparities research is conducted as an integrated and inclusive field of study, rather than as an aggregate of independent research activities occurring in separate research domains. During a recent retreat this entity's name was changed to the Health Equity Collaborative of Virginia, and their goals, mission and vision were also updated.


The Health Equity Collaborative of Virginia consists of members from the community, academic institutions, and healthcare systems of Virginia. These are:

  • Carilion Clinic
  • Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD)
  • Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS)
  • George Mason University (GMU)
  • Hampton Veterans Administration Medical Center (HAMVAMC)
  • Norfolk State University (NSU)
  • Hampton University (HU)
  • Old Dominion University (ODU)
  • Sentara Healthcare
  • University of Virginia (UVA)
  • Virginia Commonwealth University (UVA)
  • Virginia Tech (VT)


We envision a Virginia where all people have healthy lives and live in healthy communities.


We advocate for and improve health equity in Virginia through systems change catalyzed by collaborative actions of community and institutional partners.


The primary goal of the collaborative is to use the collective knowledge, wisdom, and resources of the collaborative to promote interagency and interdisciplinary efforts to address inequities and improve health and wellness.

This goal is to be achieved by working toward the following three objectives:

  1. Identify and communicate new and proven solutions to address gaps related to health equity.
  2. Identify health equity priorities and coordinate interagency and community partners to support collaborative efforts to advance health equity.
  3. Test, implement, and disseminate programs with measurable outcomes to inform and enhance services in key public health areas.

Please click here if you would like to learn more about the Health Equity Collaborative of Virginia and hear from members of this collective.

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COVIDsmart study

  • COVIDsmart study was launched in 2021 and is a statewide collaborative effort between George Mason University (GMU), Vibrent Health Inc., and EVMS/HADSI. The objective is to learn and understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities by capturing data on COVID-19 prevalence, demographics, symptoms, mental and physical health, education/work functioning, social/family functioning, economic impact, and health perceptions. To date, 830 adult participants have been recruited in the study.
  • For more information on COVIDsmart study, please visit  the study website at www.covidsmartstudy.org or contact the HADSI helpdesk at hadsi@evms.edu

Taking action to address community needs

Preliminary results from COVIDmsart are helping us to identify areas of need in Virginia communities. For example, we found anxiety and/or depression levels were high for COVIDsmart participants. About 22% of COVIDsmart participants have moderate to severe anxiety, and about 24% have moderate to severe depression. As a result, EVMS has funded a program to provide digital Cognitive Behavior Therapy called SilverCloud to the newly diagnosed study participants with moderate to severe anxiety and/or depression these COVIDsmart participants.

Silvercloud Program Study

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a community-wide mental health crisis leading to longer wait times for mental healthcare services. A population-based approach is needed to increase access to care and prevent the exacerbation of mental health illness. This study has the potential to provide evidence for the utilization of the digital therapy SilverCloud to reduce anxiety and/or depression in digital community settings.  Findings could influence public health policy to fund access to SilverCloud for disadvantaged populations. The SilverCloud study is currently ongoing.
  • To learn more about other mental health resources available in Hampton Roads and other Communities in Virginia, please click here
  • To learn more about this project please contact Dr. Sunita Dodani at (DodaniS@EVMS.EDU) Dr. Marilyn Bartholamae at (BarthoMM@EVMS.EDU) or Matt Karpov at (KarpovMV@EVMS.EDU). 

Addressing Mistrust in COVID-19 Guidance

  • The purpose of this project is to study how perceived legitimacy of important institutions and mistrust in sources of COVID-19 information affect compliance with public health guidance designed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. This project entails working closely with a Community Advisory Board of low-income housing residents and a core participant group who will complete on-line assessments and participate in focus groups throughout the two-year study period. The overarching goal is to develop community-informed strategies to address resident concerns about COVID-19. This NIH funded project is led by Dr. Andrew Plunk.
  • To learn more about this project please contact Dr. Brynn Sheehan at SheehaBE@EVMS.EDU.

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HEALS Hypertension Program

HEALS Med-Tech

HEALS (Healthy Eating and Living Spiritually) Med-Tech is a 12-month behavioral modification hypertension management program.  The program incorporates the social, economic, and cultural determinants of health and focuses on empowering and supporting the community to take charge of their BP control. It is currently being facilitated in partnership with the Healthy Living Center in Norfolk, VA.

The goal of the program is to help African-Americans who have been diagnosed with hypertension make better lifestyle and behavioral changes related to blood pressure and overall health.

HEALS Med-Tech has 3 components:

  • HEALS: An efficacy tested, group-based, behavioral lifestyle intervention modified from the NIH-funded DASH and PREMIER programs
  • Med-component: Provides HTN management through medications and social support provided by PCP team
  • Tech-component: Provides an interactive telehealth app, CAREMINDr, by mobile phone to combat barriers to healthcare access.

The program is delivered by trained CHAs and offered at three levels; community, peer group and individual. A total of 62 eligible AA participants were enrolled and randomized to either HEALS Med-Tech or standard care arms. (i.e. n=31 in each arm).  The mean age is 62.8 years, and 81% are females.  At the end of 3 months, a significant reduction in SBP of 13.11 mm Hg from baseline was seen compared to the 7.83 mm Hg in control arm. The program is currently in the 6th month of the maintenance phase.

Preliminary Results

A total of 62 eligible AA participants were enrolled and randomized to either HEALS Med-Tech or standard care arms. (i.e. n=31 in each arm).  The mean age is 62.8 years, and 81% are females.  At the end of 3 months, a significant reduction in SBP of 13.11 mm Hg from baseline was seen compared to the 7.83 mm Hg in control arm.  The program is currently in the 6th month of the maintenance phase.


Click here for the HEALS Med-Tech page.

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