A longstanding question has been directed over the past year toward the numerous and distinctive challenges that crashed down on communities across the country: What are the root causes?
It’s certainly not a new approach to solving problems. Researchers have always sought to answer why things happen along with what happened and how. But the concept of root-cause analysis gained currency when, for example, the Centers for Disease Control reported that COVID-19 infections resulted in higher fatality rates among Blacks and Latinos. What can be done to address the comorbidities that put people of color at an elevated risk? How do gaps in healthcare access and the existence of food deserts impact quality of life and longevity even in the absence of a pandemic?
This annual research issue of Helix highlights a root-cause examination in the neighborhoods within reach of our campus. RFU researchers will soon expand on their work with the community to explore the social determinants of health in underserved areas and what interventions might improve outcomes in economic security, healthcare standards and other quality-of-life metrics. We also document an effort this spring that recognized the value of providing preemptive care to disadvantaged populations — the RFU Community Care Connection’s delivery of COVID vaccines to Lake County residents who lack permanent housing.
This edition’s spotlight on RFU research includes the identification of a chemical that might lead to new brain therapeutics for patients living with HIV; an attempt to gauge depression among Black youths in the aftermath of police interactions; and a project to reduce teen pregnancy at a school district a short drive from the RFU campus.
This 2021 research issue also illustrates the progress that takes place at all times and under all circumstances, beyond the storms of 2020. Taken as a whole, the work both in our labs and our community takes aim not just at medical, scientific and cultural challenges, but the roots buried beneath them.
Dan Moran is the communications director in the RFU Division of Marketing and Brand Management.