OHSU Key to Oregon: COVID-19 Study Ends, Transition to Impacts on Communities of Color, Tribes

OHSU ends COVID-19 study, supports ongoing conversations between Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Decolonizing Research and Data Council and Governor’s office to better understand disproportionate impacts of the virus within communities of color and urban-based Indians and Tribes.

In response to Oregon’s first reported cases of COVID-19, OHSU launched the Key to Oregon research study on May 1 to help local leaders better track, test and map the prevalence of COVID-19 across the state. Since that time, the pandemic has continued to present new questions, its public health implications have changed, and community needs have increased.

Specifically, COVID-19 has intensified the profound and disproportionately adverse public health impacts that have long harmed Black, Indigenous and People of Color, as well as other historically disadvantaged populations including, but not limited to, Latinx and Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islanders. It is critical that the state improve its understanding of COVID-19 prevalence by centering research on the communities most affected.

More than 10,000 Oregonians from across the state stepped up to enroll in the Key to Oregon study, one of OHSU’s largest research cohorts to date. However, OHSU realizes that this research cohort does not currently represent the state in the way that is necessary to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on historically disadvantaged populations in Oregon. Therefore, to ensure the best use of state funding and limited long-term resources, OHSU will decommission the Key to Oregon study with the understanding that one of the most effective and efficient ways to serve historically disadvantaged communities is to elevate leadership to Oregonians representative of these populations.

OHSU offers its deepest gratitude to the Oregonians who have given their time, effort and support to the Key to Oregon study. OHSU greatly values their willingness to engage in the public service of participating in research to benefit the health and well-being of our state.

Moving forward, the BIPOC Decolonizing Research and Data Council, an alliance of community member-based scientists, advocates and leaders representative of some of the communities most impacted by COVID-19, and a partner on the Key to Oregon study, is in ongoing conversations with the Governor’s office and the Oregon Health Authority about co-creating next steps that center racial equity. A key focus will include strengthening the connection of data, data collection and research as a tool towards social and racial justice to mitigate COVID-19 impacts to communities. OHSU strongly supports these ongoing efforts to address this critical need.

In OHSU’s continued pursuit to become an anti-racist institution, we recognize the importance of centering research on populations that experience oppression and are furthest from opportunity. Further, we appreciate the learning and growth that has come through our partnership with the BIPOC Council to introduce important trauma-informed and anti-colonial approaches to the Key to Oregon study. This partnership has enriched OHSU’s understanding of the gaps in research, education and healthcare that have historically perpetuated racial and ethnic inequities. OHSU acknowledges that the institution is just beginning its engagement with this important work and there is much more to be done.