With funding from a National Science Foundation (NSF) Engines Development Award, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) is leading regional partners in an initiative 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.
Organizations interested in collaborating with ACHI and other regional partners to advance equitable access to food and health technologies in the Delta (AR, LA, MS) are encouraged to contact us.
About NSF Engines
The U.S. National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines program, or NSF Engines, catalyzes and fosters innovation ecosystems across the United States to:
- Boost innovation capacity.
- Create sustainable ecosystems.
- Demonstrate inclusive economic growth.
Participating organizations support the development of diverse regional coalitions of researchers, institutions, companies, and civil society to lead research and development that engages people in the process of creating solutions with economic and societal impacts. Through the process, coalitions will also train and develop the local workforce and grow regional innovation ecosystems.
Building A Coalition
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 health care. To overcome these challenges and harness the region’s strengths to positively impact communities, the coalition will share experiences, ideas, and innovative solutions. Leading organizations include:
Dr. Joe Thompson
ACHI President and CEO
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.
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.
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.
To overcome longstanding challenges in the Delta and harness the region’s strengths to positively impact communities, ACHI will build a coalition to share experiences, ideas, and innovative solutions. Individuals and organizations interested in collaborating to support this NSF Engines Development effort in the Delta region may submit their interest here:
ACHI Executive Director