Congratulations to C3EN Mini-Grant Awardee Chuka Nestor Emezue! Dr. Emezue is a certified health education specialist and Assistant Professor at the Department of Women, Children, and Family Nursing at Rush University College of Nursing. His primary interest includes the development, pilot testing, and deployment of technology-enhanced interventions that address co-occurring interpersonal violence, mental health comorbidities, and substance use to promote the health and well-being of various communities, including at-risk populations in humanitarian, justice-involved, rural, immigrant, Black, and Latinx/Hispanic contexts. Dr. Emezue is also a Cycle 2 Pilot Awardee!

How did you become interested in health equity?

I’m originally from Nigeria. Ten years ago, I led community-based projects formed around the Millennium Development Goals, now called Sustainable Development Goals. During community outreach efforts I witnessed very stark health disparities. In some cases, the difference between affluent wealth and abject poverty was a short drive a few miles down the road.

How did you become interested in your C3EN minigrant research topic?

When I came to the US in 2014, I noticed similar disparities in violence prevention efforts for Black, immigrant, and Hispanic men, as well as dehumanizing and nonrestorative approaches in the community and justice system to rehabilitate boys and men who use violence. Naturally these young men have grown to distrust the legal and medical systems–and academic systems, too. This has led to “service avoidance” among those who need these services the most. My research has since focused on optimizing interventions using technology and community-based approaches to deliver vital resources and services to young Black men where they are and in ways they trust and endorse.

How does your C3EN minigrant project fit into your broader research?

My overall research aims to optimize and adapt BrotherlyACT, a trauma- and culturally adapted, mobile, and web-based mindfulness and life skills coaching intervention to prevent serious and lethal violence among Young Black men. I typically compensate participants with gift cards and, in some cases, bus passes. However, this type of compensation comes with various uptake issues and little to no lasting impact once the gift card is used up. So, my goal with the C3EN mini-grant is to provide a respectable and forward-thinking compensation package that includes a 3-day Mobile Health Hackathon focused on creating innovative digital solutions for violence prevention.

Young Black males, ages 15-24, who are interested in understanding the principles of app and mHealth design, will participate in an online hands-on workshop with an mHealth specialist. Our goals are to spark their interest in mHealth interventions and lead them to IT careers, to provide them with something substantial to include in their job and college applications and CV/resumes, to provide participants with a learning opportunity that is hands-on and interdisciplinary, and to put them on a path to social and economic mobility.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself and your research?

I’m always looking for community partners who can mutually build their programming with BrotherlyACT. Overall, young Black men report barriers that include but are not limited to historical mistrust of legal and medical services, hypercriminalization, unemployment, treatment stigma, economic deprivation, overpolicing, and mass incarceration. We need respectable and humanizing ways to support these young men, even as we look at them as more than just the violence in their lives.

Are you a Chicago area health equity researcher? Apply for a C3EN Pilot Award or Mini-Grant!