ACHI IS a proud recipient of the

NSF Engines Development Award:

Advancing Equitable Access to Food and Health Technologies in the Delta (AR, LA, MS)

The Initiative

With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement plans to lead a multistate initiative of diverse, regional partners to promote equitable health and economic outcomes in the Mississippi Delta regions of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. ACHI and its partners will develop a proposal for an innovative initiative to transform one of the most disenfranchised areas of the country into a thriving, diversified, and integrated economic driver. 

The initiative will focus on three areas: 

  • The design, development, and manufacture of over-the-counter or pharmacy-administered diagnostic materials and therapeutics, with a focus on innovations, advancements, and infrastructure that improve healthcare for underserved populations.
  • The development of more-effective methods for production, distribution, and accessibility of fresh, healthy food, including advancements in precision agriculture and the development of new business models that integrate food as medicine with existing and emerging healthcare delivery.
  • The development and testing of new telehealth models and digital tools that can be embedded in the home and across rural clinical and pharmacy sites, taking advantage of modern advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data science. The initiative will also provide the training resources and infrastructure to increase fluency in virtual care among healthcare professionals, community health workers, and patients.


Residents of the Mississippi Delta region have been historically marginalized and have suffered from systemic racism, persistent poverty, high rates of chronic disease, and limited access to healthcare. This inclusive effort will address these longstanding challenges by harnessing the region’s strengths and addressing its key disparities to impact residents of the Delta region and beyond:

  • Through use-inspired research, technological breakthroughs, and stimulated development of a workforce skilled in the industries of tomorrow, the region will grow and sustain a knowledge-based economy.
  • Entrepreneurial success and new intellectual property will stimulate additional workforce opportunities, educational pathways, and use-inspired research.
  • Novel business solutions and market disruptions will lead to improved access to nutritious food and affordable healthcare services.
  • Through intentional inclusion in project activities, low-income communities and communities of color will directly benefit and cultivate new businesses, gain access to quality clinical services and food sources, and begin to eradicate existing disparities.
  • Novel solutions in precision agriculture in response to climate change, new varieties of valuable crops, and the infusion of emerging technology will impact the regional and global food supply.

Key Personnel

Thompson, Joe

Dr. Joe Thompson

ACHI President and CEO

ACHI Logo Color

Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI)

ACHI is a nationally recognized nonpartisan health policy center that converts data into actionable information and insight for everyday decision makers and institutional influencers to achieve improved health outcomes. For 25 years, ACHI has been at the forefront of health promotion, healthcare coverage improvement, and payment transformation in Arkansas, as a result of innovative solutions, community engagement, and empirical assessments. ACHI has created novel data assets that include an individual-level all-payer healthcare claims database linked to other statewide data sources, including vital records and disease registries. ACHI is uniquely positioned to lead this bold multistate initiative and help develop innovative and sustainable solutions to address economic and health challenges in the region.

Mellie Boagni Bridewell



Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP)

ARHP was founded by a handful of rural hospital leaders in the Arkansas Delta who knew the significance and stabilizing force of home, community, and local healthcare. ARHP is a nonprofit Arkansas healthcare network of 16 rural hospitals, two federally qualified health systems, and three medical schools with the mission to create and implement sustainable community solutions that support and improve the healthcare infrastructure and strengthen healthcare delivery across rural Arkansas. ARHP is recognized for its innovation programs to address the needs of their rural community members and patients, rural healthcare workforce challenges and recruitment, the mental and behavioral health crisis in rural areas, rural healthcare workforce training and education, and rural hospital viability and sustainability.

Dr. Karen Matthews

President and CEO


Delta Health Alliance (DHA)

DHA is an innovative partnership that binds together communities of the Mississippi Delta to improve the quality of life of its residents. Consisting of more than 30 programs focused on every stage of growth, DHA offers the tools, guidance, and resources to meet the needs and challenges of those who call the Delta and surrounding area their home. DHA provides the ingredients to ensure that all residents have the best health and educational opportunities in a region historically distressed by a lack of these essential components. DHA offers telehealth consultations, health education, and mentoring between specialists and community-based clinicians at two rural health clinics in the region and deploys a Mobile Medical Clinic to serve rural patients.

Charity Hallman

Senior Vice President, Community and Economic Development


Hope Enterprise Corporation (HOPE)

HOPE is a family of development organizations dedicated to strengthening communities, building assets, and improving lives in economically distressed communities in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. HOPE consists of a regional credit union, a loan fund, and a policy center and is a nonprofit CFDI and designated Minority Development Institution. Since 1994, HOPE has generated more than $3.6 billion in financing to benefit more than 2 million people across the Deep South. HOPE has brought more than 100,000 member households into the financial mainstream, saving them $1.1 million per year by avoiding costs of predatory financial services. HOPE has helped more than 1,100 entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses, supporting more than 22,000 jobs in communities of color and high-poverty areas. In 2021, over 71% of HOPE’s commercial and small business loans were to minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

Shelina Davis



Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI)

LPHI is a statewide, nonprofit organization that has been promoting the health and well-being of Louisianans since 1997. LPHI has employees in all nine Louisiana Department of Health regions and over 500 partner organizations, which include communities, community-based organizations, foundations, healthcare systems, academic institutions, government agencies, and a diverse group of additional stakeholders. LPHI works to advance racial justice and health equity through enhancing operations (workforce development, business practices) and ensuring that programs, services, and partnerships address social determinants of health and the root causes of health inequities.

Dr. De’Shoin A. York

Vice Chancellor, Extension and Outreach


Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center – Cooperative Extension Program

Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center (Southern University Ag Center’s Cooperative Extension Program) is housed within the Southern University System, the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) system in the nation. The Cooperative Extension Program provides services to the citizens of Louisiana in a manner that is useful in addressing their scientific, technological, social, economic, and cultural needs to enhance their overall quality of life. Its aim is to help small-scale and limited-resource farmers and ranchers to develop and maintain viable farming operations that are in harmony with the environment; help communities build capacity to enhance the growth and development of the business and industrial sectors; and improve the quality of life for families and youth throughout Louisiana. The Cooperative Extension Program offers programming related to community and economic development, family and human development,  and nutrition, health, and wellness. These include, but are not limited to: The Communities of Color Network; Jagriculture – Emergency Preparedness Program; Small Farm Conference and Academy; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education; and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.


Danielle Taylor

ACHI Executive Director

Danielle Taylor