Category Archives: Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College

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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Aug 28 2013
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Affirmation at the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting

Taylor Hargrove is a PhD student in the sociology department at Vanderbilt University and a graduate fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. Her research interests focus on racial/ethnic stratification, health disparities, social determinants of health, and stress. Her M.A. thesis examines the adequacy and utility of the stress process model among African Americans.

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As a rising third year in the sociology doctoral program at Vanderbilt University, I recently attended my first annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA). I didn’t really know what to expect.  I suppose I thought it would be like any other conference I had been to, which, up to that point, had been pretty laid back.

The day I went to check-in, I realized I had been mistaken. I stepped inside the doors of the conference hotel and immediately became part of the swarm of sociologists from all around the world.  I became instantly overwhelmed. Not only were there a ton of people walking around, but I knew that there was so much knowledge and expertise surrounding me. I also knew that scholars I had, and continue to, read extensively were just inches away from me somewhere.

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Aug 27 2013
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A Fellow’s Perspective on the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association

Helena Dagadu is a fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College and a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University. Dagadu’s research and professional interests include comparative health and health policy, health disparities, social determinants of health, and international medical migration.

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Presenting and attending academic conferences are important components of a scholar’s development. Not only are such meetings important venues to present one’s work and receive constructive feedback, they also provide a less formal environment to meet scholars outside one’s academic home, exchange ideas, and foster lifelong academic relationships.

From August 10th to 13th, I participated in the 108th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in New York City. The theme for this year’s meeting was “Interrogating Inequality.” Given its distinct character as a global city and its rich history of diversity, New York provided the prime backdrop to examine how, in the words of ASA President Cecilia Ridgeway, PhD, “inequality, in all its multi-dimensional complexity, is produced in contemporary societies.”

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Aug 21 2013
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Pros and Cons of Federally Mandated Comprehensive Care

Italo M. Brown, MPH, is a rising third-year medical student at Meharry Medical College. He holds a BS from Morehouse College, and an MPH in epidemiology and social & behavioral sciences from Boston University, School of Public Health. He is a Health Policy Scholar at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. Read all the blog posts in this series.

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In 1986, Congress took a step in the direction of patient advocacy by passing the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). One part of this act, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), has served as the precedent for federally mandated care and has largely shaped our understanding of urgent care delivery in America. While some have touted EMTALA as a public health victory, many have scrutinized the federal mandate, citing its imperfection and labeling it as a strong contributor to the current ailments of our emergency medical system.

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However, 27 years after EMTALA became law, a greater emphasis is placed on preventive measures and comprehensive care, rather than urgent care, as a means to reduce negative health outcomes. Naturally, champions of cost-efficient comprehensive care have suggested that a federal mandate should be explored.

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Aug 14 2013
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U.S. Needs Primary Prevention, Especially for the Poor and Underserved

Adrian L. Ware, MSc, is a third-year graduate student in public health at Meharry Medical College. He holds a BSc in biology from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, and an MSc in biology and alternative medicine from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. He is a Health Policy Scholar at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.  He aspires to become a Christian psychiatrist serving the poor and underserved. Read all the blog posts in this series.

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With innovation, brilliance, passion, and robust planning, public health students and practitioners ask: How can we protect the health of the nation? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seven out of ten deaths in the United States are caused by chronic disease. The need for more cost-effective, comprehensive care has never been greater. Within the world of public health, there are three levels of prevention: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

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Primary prevention reduces both the incidence and prevalence of a disease, because the focus is on preventing the disease before it develops. This can change the health of the nation for the better. Secondary and tertiary prevention are also significant.

It is well known that emergency care is vastly important, given the sheer complexity of episodic clinical cases that present to the emergency room in “life or death” situations. These “provisions” are necessary for the United States to uphold its high ideals of liberty and justice for all. Adequate, culturally competent, comprehensive health care for all citizens is a social justice issue, and a fundamental right. To this point, our health system’s extreme emphasis on tertiary care is amongst the most fiscally irresponsible ways to improve the health of the nation.

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