The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Receives Grant from the CDC Partnering with the University of Alabama at Birmingham to Improve Access to Care for African American IBD Patients

African American Patient


August 3, 2023 – The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) titled “Improving Health Outcomes for Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” The grant will support a comprehensive five-year project in collaboration with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) aimed at identifying and addressing barriers to medical diagnosis and care of patients with inflammatory bowel disease, emphasizing the experience and impact on African American adults and adolescents and implementing community engagement programs with Birmingham-based organizations to raise awareness of IBD and provide education on effective management among local healthcare professionals, potential patients, and caregivers.


The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation maintains a strong commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare. As dedicated advocates, they have consistently urged Congress to fund the CDC to address these vital issues.


The study will commence this fall and will encompass three key components. First, UAB will conduct research to identify the various barriers and factors that impact health outcomes for many IBD patients, with a specific focus on the unique challenges faced by African American patients. This will involve investigating psychological resiliency, and the impact of social determinants of health (SDOH), including racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities. UAB will actively recruit adolescent and adult IBD patients for participation in the research cohort.

The second component of the study will investigate the significance of health literacy levels in impacting the time to diagnosis and access to appropriate IBD management. Valuable insights will be gleaned from focus groups from the research cohort to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and potential solutions in this area. The team behind both research components comprises a highly collaborative and cross-disciplinary group of experts, including researchers from the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine who specialize in gastroenterology, gastrointestinal surgery, gastrointestinal pediatrics, health literacy, and other relevant fields.


Third, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation will collaborate with the UAB team and local partners in Birmingham to develop and disseminate resources informed by the research findings. The overarching objective is to raise awareness about IBD and its management, while also highlighting the importance of timely referrals to gastroenterologists when necessary. This process will involve engaging local healthcare professionals, service organizations, churches, adult IBD patients, and caregivers of pediatric IBD patients. The team will design and test messages that resonate best with the target audience, including patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers within the community.  Further, in conjunction with Birmingham community organizations, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, UAB, and their partners will implement educational programs aimed at promoting earlier diagnosis and effective disease management strategies throughout the community.


African Americans typically suffer higher rates of hospitalization and surgery from IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, due to delayed diagnoses, limited access to care in more rural areas, and other social determinants of health. The goal of the project is to improve health outcomes for IBD patients with a focus on African American IBD patients. The project aims to increase referrals to IBD specialists and improve effective disease management, ultimately leading to a supportive healthcare environment for those affected by these diseases. This grant marks a significant step toward addressing the barriers to care and enhancing the quality of life for IBD patients in the Birmingham area and beyond.


This project will leverage a collaborative relationship between the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, the nation’s leading advocacy organization for patients affected by IBD, and UAB, one of the nation’s top research universities.


“Through this CDC grant, we aim to create transformative change in the healthcare community,” said Laura Wingate, one of the study’s co-principal investigators, and Executive Vice President, Education, Support, & Advocacy, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. “Working with UAB, we’ll identify barriers to care for IBD patients, particularly African Americans, and develop awareness and education programs to support better health outcomes through co-developed programming with Alabama community stakeholders.”


“This research will spotlight persistent barriers to IBD care in the African American community,” said Caren Heller, MD, Chief Scientific Officer, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. “With UAB and Birmingham partners, we’ll pinpoint these obstacles and introduce programs to overcome them, while sharing our learnings widely to maximize impact.”


“I am excited about this grant on multiple levels,” said Co-Principal Investigator Daniel I. Chu, MD, Vice Chair of Health Services Research, Department of Surgery, UAB. “Our work aims to improve the lives of millions of people affected by IBD in the U.S., a chronic condition often overlooked in federal research funding. Additionally, it will enhance public education on IBD through health literacy best practices and stakeholder perspectives."


“Our research will provide novel insights in understanding the health inequities and disparities in inflammatory bowel disease patients and we will be able to initiate awareness and educational programs focused on these inequities and disparities,” said Co-Principal Investigator Jennifer Pollock, PhD, Professor of Medicine, UAB. “This innovative and collaborative grant will further our knowledge toward improving the lives of those suffering from IBD.”


Other UAB co-investigators include Kirk Russ, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Traci Jester, MD, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, and Robert Hollis, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery.


This study will be supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), funding opportunity RFA-DP-23-002.


About the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization focused on both research and patient support for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), with the mission of curing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and improving quality of life for the millions of Americans living with IBD. The Foundation’s work is dramatically accelerating the research process, while also providing extensive educational and support resources for patients and their families, medical professionals, and the public. For more information, visit, call 888-694-8872, or email [email protected].


About UAB

Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a part of the University of Alabama System, is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center with more than $715 million in annual research funding and an economic impact on the state exceeding $12.1 billion a year. UAB is Alabama’s largest employer, with some 28,000 employees, and was named Forbes’ No. 1 Large Employer in the United States in 2021. UAB enrollment surpassed 21,500 for the fifth consecutive year in fall 2022. The university offers more than 180-degree programs in nine schools and one college. The pillars of UAB’s mission include education, research, innovation and economic development, community engagement and patient care. Learn more at



Rachel Peifer

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