Since 2018, the Duke Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) has partnered with North Carolina Central University (NCCU) on a number of community health initiatives. The partnership is designed to leverage the strengths of both institutions to advance translational science and improve health outcomes, particularly for those health issues that disproportionately impact underserved and underrepresented communities.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at Duke and NCCU have had to redesign some of their programs, as well as work together to address new health challenges that have intensified as a result of the pandemic. Undi N. Hoffler, PhD, director of research compliance and technology transfer at NCCU, has been focusing on how mind-body-spirit-soul practices can benefit people at this time.
Dr. Hoffler and members of the CTSI Community Engaged Research Initiative (CERI) have partnered with local churches to educate community members about the importance of mental and spiritual health, as well as physical health. Specifically, Dr. Hoffler offers activities that will allow people to better manage their stress levels.
“Stress is chronic, and it can exacerbate pre-existing conditions in people,” Dr. Hoffler said. “With everything going on - COVID-19, social justice issues - these are events of significant intensity we have been experiencing. I want to help people take care of their wellness holistically.”
Dr. Hoffler worked with CERI’s AME Zion Health Equity Advocates & Liaisons (HEAL) partnership to reach out to these churches. She has held her workshops at Trinity Church in Greensboro and St. Mark AME Zion Church in Durham, and plans to expand to more church communities in the coming months.
Some of the exercises Dr. Hoffler recommends to the community include mindful meditation, yoga, and gratitude journaling. In her own life, Dr. Hoffler has seen how critical these practices can be; she starts her day with either a brisk walk in her neighborhood or a virtual yoga practice, and ends it by praying and journaling about all of the things she has been grateful for during these last few months.
“It is truly vital to do these practices,” Dr. Hoffler said. “Everything is so different now compared to how we were moving around a few months ago. Many people are trying to assess, “how do I not only make it through this time, but thrive?” If we can provide practices to people about how they can do that, we can help people effectively manage stress and lead people toward long-term health benefits.”