Category Archives: Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College

Dec 5 2014
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Naming Racism

Thomas LaVeist, PhD, is founding director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions, and the William C. and Nancy F. Richardson Professor in Health Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is the chair of the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. LaVeist will moderate the first RWJF Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health today, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. Follow the hashtag,  #RWJFScholarsForum, on Twitter for more.

Thomas LaVeist

Yesterday I had Camara Phyllis Jones, PhD, MD, MPH, as guest lecturer for my seminar on health disparities. It was a homecoming of sorts for her. She and I first met in the early 1990s when I was a newly minted assistant professor and she was a PhD student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Jones’ work should be well known to readers of this blog. She has published and lectured on the effects of racism on health and health disparities for many years. She played a leading role in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work on race, racism, and health in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.  And she was just elected president-elect of the American Public Health Association. She is a fantastic lecturer and often uses allegory to illustrate how racism affects health. 

Scholars Forum 2014 Logo

About midway through her lecture, a student raised his hand and got her attention to ask a question about the utility of “naming racism.” My interpretation and rephrasing of his question—is it helpful to use the word racism or is the word so politically charged and divisive that it causes people to “tune you out?”

The student’s question raises a major challenge for those of us who seek to address health disparities. On one hand racism is fundamental to understanding why disparities exist and persist. I would go as far as to state that in most race disparities research, race is actually a proxy measure for exposure to racism. But, on the other hand, the word racism makes some people uncomfortable, causing them to become defensive or sometimes simply block out your message.  

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Nov 17 2014
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Ending Health Inequality, Addressing the Social Determinants of Health

Thomas LaVeist, PhD, is founding director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions, and the William C. and Nancy F. Richardson Professor in Health Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is the chair of the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. On December 5, LaVeist will moderate the first RWJF Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health. Learn more about it.

Thomas LaVeist

Research has amply demonstrated that social and economic forces are important determinants of health. They affect where and how people live, work, learn and play; their patterns of social engagement; and the financial and social resources available to them. They thereby shape their health and length and quality of life. 

Scholars Forum 2014 Logo

The World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health suggested four strategies in which policy can be deployed to address health inequalities:

  • decreasing social stratification (e.g., power, prestige, wealth, human capital, etc.);
  • decreasing exposure to risk;
  •  lessening the vulnerability or improving the ability of disadvantaged persons to cope with risk; or
  • intervening through health care to reduce the unequal consequences of social determinants.

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Nov 17 2014
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What Determines Your Health?

Minoo Sarkarati, BA, is a third-year medical student and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Policy Scholar at Meharry Medical College. She completed her undergraduate degrees of psychology and integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Learn about the RWJF Briefings @ the Booth at the APHA Annual Meeting on Monday, November 17 and Tuesday, November 18.

Minoo Sarkarati

What determines your health?  Is it your ZIP code? Is it the clinic or hospital you go to? Is it the physician you see? Or is it you?

American Public Health Association Meeting & Expo

I could not say that the answer to this critical question is solely any one of these. However, understanding how each component plays a role in one’s health, as well as exploring further determinants, is vital to building healthier communities.

This year’s American Public Health Association (APHA) Meeting theme is Healthography. It is an opportunity to explore how our environment—whether it is access to clean air, safe housing, transportation, healthy foods, safe places to exercise, jobs, or quality health care—plays a role in our health. 

As a medical student training in a safety-net hospital, I have seen how each of these elements plays a role in one’s health. Without addressing these factors, a large part of medical care is lost. Encouraging regular exercise is not so simple when you do not have sidewalks or green spaces, or you do not feel safe being outside in your neighborhood. Writing a prescription to treat diabetes becomes meaningless if your patient cannot fill it because he/she does not make enough income to purchase the medication.

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Oct 31 2014
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RWJF Milestones, October 2014

The following are among the many honors received recently by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, grantees and alumni:

Linda Aiken, PhD, FAAN, FRCN, RN, has won the Institute of Medicine’s Leinhard Award in recognition of her “rigorous research demonstrating the importance of nursing care and work environments in achieving safe, effective, patient-centered, and affordable health care.” The director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Aiken serves on the National Advisory Committee of the RWJF Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative and is a research manager for the Future of Nursing National Research Agenda.

A number of RWJF Scholars and Fellows were recently elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine:

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Apr 29 2014
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How Can Health Systems Effectively Serve Minority Communities? Shift the Cost-Access-Quality Axis.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Italo M. Brown, MPH, a rising fourth-year medical student at Meharry Medical College, responds to the question, “What are the challenges, needs, or opportunities for health systems to effectively serve minority communities?” Brown holds a BS from Morehouse College and an MPH from Boston University, School of Public Health. He is an alumnus of the Health Policy Scholars Program at the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.

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In our domestic health care system, we nurture the drive to improve patient outcomes, and apply evidence-based knowledge to solve contemporary health care challenges. Yet, studies have demonstrated that minorities are disproportionately affected by chronic conditions, and on average are less likely to receive ongoing care/management of their comorbidities. In addition, public health experts have asserted that social determinants of health (e.g., education level, family income, social capital) directly impact the minority community, and effectively convolute the pathway to care. 

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Apr 28 2014
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How Can Health Systems Effectively Serve Minority Communities? Improve Medical Literacy, Take a Holistic Approach.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Cheryl C. Onwu, BS, a public health graduate student at Meharry Medical College, responds to the question, “What are the challenges, needs, or opportunities for health systems to effectively serve minority communities?” Onwu is a Health Policy Scholar at the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.

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A doctor informed an African American male that he has diabetes mellitus, and medication was prescribed. However, the doctor did not mention the extent of the dangers involved in having diabetes, or “the sugars.” Additionally, the doctor did not explain the detrimental effects if the patient failed to follow the prescription regimens and other recommendations.

Some of the challenges faced by minorities include lack of medical literacy, which can affect their overall health. Clear communication between a health care provider and his or her patients is important, so patients are cognizant of their health status, the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, potential threats to well-being, and how to control health problems.

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Apr 28 2014
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How Can Health Systems Effectively Serve Minority Communities? There are Endless Opportunities.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Adrian L. Ware, MSc, a third year graduate student in public health at Meharry Medical College, responds to the question, “What are the challenges, needs, or opportunities for health systems to effectively serve minority communities?” Ware is a Health Policy Scholar at the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.* 

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According to the World Health Organization, “a good health system delivers quality services to all people, when and where they need them. The exact configuration of services varies from country to country, but in all cases requires a robust financing mechanism; a well-trained and adequately paid workforce; reliable information on which to base decisions and policies; well maintained facilities and logistics to deliver quality medicines and technologies.” This definition will be used as the gold standard for this discussion of service toward minority communities. It is important to underscore that the basis for this discussion is centered on public health infrastructure. Public health is the promotion of health at a community level by the government. 

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Feb 5 2014
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Be Heart Smart: Addressing the High Burden of Cardiovascular Disease Among African-American Women

Nadia Winston, MSPH, is a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Nursing, pursuing dual nurse practitioner studies in family practice and occupational health. She has a master of science in public health degree from Meharry Medical College and is a former scholar with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. This post is part of the “Health Care in 2014” series.

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Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of African American women. It has become imperative for the nation to take back the reins of its health status and educate the public about this threat. The statistics are alarming. Black women are twice as likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease as women of other ethnicities. And according to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease kills nearly 50,000 African-American women annually. The reason for this disparity can be attributed to a lack of health knowledge, being overweight or obese, and lack of physical activity. Early intervention and action has been identified as the key to reducing this population’s risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease and related diagnoses.

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Addressing and raising awareness of the health risks associated with cardiovascular diseases for African American women has been quite challenging. Recognizing this issue, Vanessa Jones Briscoe, PhD, MSN, then a Health Policy Associate at the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College, developed and implemented a culturally appropriate health education program to educate minority populations about unhealthy lifestyles. It is called the “Be Heart Smart” program.

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Jan 20 2014
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On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, an RWJF Scholar and Soon-to-Be Physician Resolves to Help End Health Disparities

Cheryl Chun, MS, MA, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Scholar (2011) at the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College and a medical student at Meharry Medical College. She received a BS degree from George Washington University and an MA from American University. She taught for Teach for America for two years. 

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Every year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, our country takes a moment to reflect on the progress we have made toward becoming the nation we have always strived to be—one of equality. And while many of us would agree that significant headway has been made, we all know that we still have so much farther to go before we can truly achieve Dr. King’s dream. 

I read the local and national news regularly and there always seems to be another article or story that speaks to the ongoing challenges of realizing this equity, including the educational achievement gap, health disparities, and even policies that allow inequalities to continue to exist across our society. It is almost scary that so many critical components of our lives are determined solely by our place of residence. In fact, it’s one’s ZIP code that often has the greatest impact on the quality of one’s education, one’s future health status, and even the types of food and nutritional resources to which one has access. These social determinants of health ultimately decide who will remain healthy throughout life and who will eventually become unwell.

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Aug 28 2013
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Two Conferences Offer Networking Opportunities that Renew a Scholar’s Interest in Research

Courtney Sinclair Thomas, BS, is a health policy fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College and a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University. Her research interests are maternal and child health, specifically social factors that contribute to the high rate of infant mortality in the African American community.

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I recently presented at two conferences in New York: the American Sociological Association (ASA) and the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP). Overall, they were great experiences. It was my first year attending such large conferences within the field of sociology, so I found myself nervous, yet excited about meeting new people and hearing about new research.

Although the two annual meetings were quite different, I gained a wealth of knowledge from them both. The SSSP meeting was held August 9th to 11th and this year’s theme was “Moving Beyond Social Constructionism,” challenging the way we, as scholars, think about society’s problems.  I presented a paper titled, “The Black Middle Class: New Insights for the Study of Racial and Ethnic Inequality,” during a thematic session with other scholars who study race and identity. There were four other panelists and we each had time to share our work with the audience and engage in conversation about the themes that emerged among the different projects.

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