ACR receives grant to focus on projects that reduce health disparities

The American College of Rheumatology's (ACR) new program, Uniting Collaborators for Innovation (UCOIN), was named one of five recipients of the American Society of Association Executives Foundation Innovation Grants Program, which awards $10,000 to programs that demonstrate engagement in innovation efforts within the association community. UCOIN is being developed by the ACR's Collaborative Initiatives department as a platform for member-led projects that reduce health disparities.

The program's initial phase will focus on creating initiatives that diminish racial and ethnic disparities for patients with rheumatic diseases. Research indicates that certain rheumatic conditions - including lupus and scleroderma - disproportionately affect minority populations in the United States, and UCOIN sees an opportunity for ACR and ARHP members to collectively problem solve. One example of a potential project is addressing the need for increased participation of ethnically diverse participants in clinical trials.

"We know how prevalent rheumatic diseases are in people of color, and we also know that Americans are more racially and ethnically diverse than ever," said Sheryl McCalla, UCOIN Project Director and ACR Senior Director, Collaborative Initiatives. "Societal consequences of inequities will continue to grow, so we at the ACR want to ensure that we're doing our part to eliminate these by creating a broad platform for innovation."

Program organizers cite barriers to health care access and a lack of representation in clinical studies as two problems that can result in negative disease outcomes for minority populations with rheumatic conditions. Through UCOIN, ACR and ARHP members will have an opportunity to identify such areas of need and implement strategies to eliminate critical gaps.

"Addressing health disparities is important for the sustainability of our profession and for the health of the patients we serve," said Dr. Sam Lim, MD, UCOIN Working Group Chair and Professor of Medicine at Emory University. "In order to serve all patients to the best of our ability, we must figure out why outcomes for some are dramatically different than outcomes for others, especially when we know that some of those disparate outcomes can be prevented."

UCOIN is currently in the planning stages and will be officially unveiled in October 2018 at the ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting in Chicago. ACR and ARHP members are invited to contribute ideas and suggestions as the program develops. Those interested in participating in UCOIN should contact Sheryl McCalla at [email protected]​​

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