Artists in front of a banner promoting vaccination with a giraffe on it

Credit: Healthy Davis Together

Local artists used their talents to promote important COVID-19 health messages as part of the Healthy Davis Together initiative.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, or APLU, has honored the University of California, Davis, for its response through Healthy Davis Together to the coronavirus pandemic.

UC Davis joined one other institution, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as the inaugural winners of the APLU Research Response to a Community in Crisis Award, announced Thursday (July 1).

“Public research universities have extraordinary capacity to tackle challenges their communities face through research, and this year’s award winners have done exactly that,” APLU President Peter McPherson said in a news release. UC Davis is among the association’s 244 member institutions.

Chancellor Gary S. May responded: “It’s truly an honor to have the APLU acknowledge our work. I’m incredibly proud of the success of Healthy Davis Together — a collaborative effort between UC Davis and the city of Davis to protect our community against COVID-19.

“It demonstrates the value a leading research university with a world class medical center can extend to our surrounding communities.”

‘Beyond campus boundaries’

Gary S. May headshot
Chancellor May
Credit: UC Davis

Healthy Davis Together started with a simple goal, according to the APLU: Prevent the spread of COVID-19 and facilitate a coordinated and gradual return to regular community activities, including reintegration of UC Davis students into the Davis community. The project began last fall as students started returning to Davis for the new term.

“The project uniquely integrated epidemiologic infectious disease control measures with health behavior change strategies and extended its reach to improve the health and well-being of the entire community, beyond the campus boundaries,” the news release states.

The campus-city partnership employs a range of activities to fight the pandemic, including COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and vaccine clinics, resources for quarantine housing and isolation, and support for local businesses.

“Healthy Davis Together recognized the interconnected nature of university and city life, and used a holistic approach combining science, education and business strategies,” APLU officials said.

Research connections

Prasant Mohapatra headshot
Vice chancellor Mohapatra
Credit: UC Davis

The science led to UC Davis’ asymptomatic COVID-19 testing program, developed and run by the UC Davis Genome Center, and typically returning results from the saliva-based tests within 24 hours. Healthy Davis Together subsequently brought the free program to the community.

Illinois also developed a saliva-based test, among the reasons for the university’s APLU award.

In creating the award, the APLU’s Council on Research, or COR, intended to recognize a single university for flexibility and responsiveness in applying the university’s research expertise to meet community needs.

“While we were required to ramp down certain nonessential research, we knew it was critical to support and enable coronavirus-related work and collaborations,” said Prasant Mohapatra, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. “That research and innovation proved to be essential in developing and implementing the Healthy Davis Together initiative to help protect our community.”

In addition, the Office of Research and School of Medicine quickly launched a series of weekly online town halls where researchers discussed related initiatives, findings and opportunities. The forums drew more than 300 participants at times, eager to deliver insight and solutions.

The APLU’s Council on Research set the following eligibility criteria for the Research Response to a Community in Crisis Award: creativity and scalability, capable of being replicated, and impact and value. “UC Davis and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign did such an outstanding job that COR selected them both,” according to the news release.