Category Archives: Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College
An APHA Presentation: Addressing Racial Health Disparities with Culturally Competent Interventions Delivered from the African American Church
By Daniel L. Howard, PhD, executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. The Center’s mission is to provide leadership in health policy education, research and reform, while improving the health and health care of underserved communities. This post is part of a series in which RWJF scholars, fellows and alumni who are attending the American Public Health Association annual meeting reflect on the experience.
This week, I am part of a team that had the honor of being chosen to conduct a presentation on mental health in African American faith-based communities at the 140th Annual Meeting and Exposition for the American Public Health Association (APHA). This is a significant topic for clinicians, researchers and policy-makers to consider when addressing mental health needs for African American individuals and their communities.
The Surgeon General’s Report Supplement (2001) noted that science can offer effective treatments for most disorders. However, it noted, “Americans do not share equally in the best that science has to offer.” Numerous others researchers have concluded that publicly provided behavioral health services must be improved for ethnic minorities.
Research has consistently shown that, despite significant prevalence of mental health issues in the United States, most individuals do not seek treatment for these issues. Historically, research has shown that African Americans are even less likely to seek mental health treatment than their Caucasian counterparts. There are several reasons for this that are not exclusive to, but do include, the stigma that surrounds mental health in African American communities, the perceptions of mental health in African American communities, and the limited mental health resources available to address mental health needs in the community.
Despite the indication that the majority of mental health service needs for African Americans are unmet, there has been a strong and consistent response from the African American church to serve as the surrogate for the medical sector. Many published studies have found that African American churches have strong potential to serve as a highly effective gateway for the successful delivery of health intervention. The compatibility between health and wellness and African American churches, and particularly between mental health wellness and African American churches, can be attributed to several factors including the church’s consistent tradition of supporting its members and the inherent emphasis on the healing of psychological ills.
This is part of a series introducing programs in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Portfolio. The mission of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College is to provide leadership in health policy education along with research and reform on a national, state and local level while continually supporting the historic mission of Meharry Medical College: to improve the health and health care of minority and underserved communities.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College connects scholars to address health policy solutions, bridging experiences and disciplines from sociology, economics and political science. Each one travels a different road.
Cheryl Chun’s path to medical school began in a high school math classroom.
Teaching in DC public schools taught Cheryl Chun important lessons. Some of her best students missed class while waiting in line at a free clinic with a sick, non-English speaking parent, to assist with translation. Another student was too exhausted to attend class after waiting all night in an emergency room to receive treatment for an asthma attack. Chun found students’ lack of health care access hurt their education.
“I had students who wanted to be in class but the realities of their lives just got in the way,” Chun explained. Watching her students struggle with access to good health and the myriad of social and economic inequalities that restricted their educational access convinced Chun, 28, to return to school to become a physician. She was committed to practicing in a medically underserved community. So, Chun chose the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College, where social scientists, policy experts and medical professionals grapple with complex social conditions in search of solutions rooted in health equity.
Human Capital News Roundup: Paying patients for tissue donation, intermittent explosive disorder, effect of diet on menopause, and more.
Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows and grantees. Some recent examples:
Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, chaired an Institute of Medicine panel that last week recommended soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan undergo annual screenings for post-traumatic stress disorder. The Associated Press and Health Day News are among the outlets to report on the recommendations.
Reuters reports that RWJF Clinical Scholar Katherine Neuhausen, MD, co-authored an editorial in the Archives of Internal Medicine to accompany a study examining the effects of upcoming changes in Medicare and Medicaid payment policies on safety-net hospitals. Instead of penalizing struggling safety net hospitals, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state Medicaid agencies should design incentive programs that reward safety-net hospitals for improving patient experience and quality, they write.
Dominick L. Frosch, PhD, an alumnus of the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program and recipient of an Investigator Award, continues to receive media coverage for his study that finds most patients are unwilling to speak up when they disagree with their care providers. Reuters reports on the findings. Read an RWJF Human Capital Blog Q&A with Frosch on his study.
Last week was the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora (ICHAD), which convened experts from a variety of fields to discuss the health and social experience of African descendants in the Western hemisphere. Below, two scholars from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College who attended the conference talk about the experience. Courtney Sinclair Thomas, BS, is a 2011 health policy fellow and doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University, and Erika Leslie, MSPH, is a 2012 health policy fellow and doctoral candidate at Vanderbilt University.
Human Capital Blog: Why did you decide to attend the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora?
Courtney Sinclair Thomas: I decided to attend ICHAD because thus far, my research has been focused on the health of African Americans in the United States. However, I realize that the shared history of the Transatlantic slave trade unites members of the Diaspora in unique ways. I wanted to learn more about the experiences of Blacks from throughout the Diaspora so that I could gain insight into the phenomenon of "race," which has such a significant impact on our health and life chances.
HCB: Please explain the ways that being a descendant of slavery can affect individual, family and population health today.
Sinclair Thomas: Being a descendent of slavery has major impacts on health today. I am interested in social determinants of health, and the experience of slavery has left an entire race at greater risk for many health conditions. This is particularly due to increased chronic stresses, discrimination, and lower social status and access to opportunities.
Last week was the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora (ICHAD), which convened experts from a variety of fields to discuss the health and social experience of African descendants in the Western hemisphere. Below, two scholars from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College who attended the conference talk about the experience. Helena Dagadu, MPH, is a 2011 health policy fellow and doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University, and Tulani Washington-Plaskett, MS, is a Fall 2011 health policy scholar and second-year medical student at Meharry Medical College.
Human Capital Blog: Why did you decide to attend the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora?
Helena Dagadu: When I met Dr. LaVeist almost two years ago, he shared his idea about ICHAD with me. As he described his vision for the conference, I knew I had to be a part of it. My research and policy interests fit directly with the spirit of ICHAD to both understand and address health disparities among people of African descent. I also attended because this was an opportunity to meet people from different disciplines and gain some insights from their respective perspectives.
An international group of scholars, policy-makers, health workers, health advocates, and journalists are convened in Baltimore, Maryland this week for the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora (ICHAD), to discuss the health and social experience of African descendants in the Western hemisphere. The theme of ICHAD 2012 is “The Great Scattering: Solving the Puzzle of Slavery, Race, and Contemporary Health in the African Diaspora.”
This afternoon at 3:15 pm EST, @RWJF_HumanCap will be live-tweeting a presentation at ICHAD by Eleanor Fleming, PhD, DDS, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on “USA Social Determinants of Health and Health Differences between Native and Foreign-born Blacks in the United States.” Fleming is a former scholar at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.
Click the “read more” link below to see videos from ICHAD co-sponsor Daniel L. Howard, PhD, executive director of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College, and ICHAD conference chair Thomas LaVeist, PhD, director of the Center for Health Disparities Solutions at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
By Daniel L. Howard, PhD, executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. The Center’s mission is to provide leadership in health policy education, research and reform, while improving the health and health care of underserved communities.
On May 17th, the U. S. Census reported a dramatic and historic shift in the nation’s demographics. For the first time, babies born from multicultural groups—African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and others—comprise the majority of new births in the United States. This trend indicates that the nation will soon transform from a white-majority-dominated population of approximately 85 percent, just a generation ago, to a minority-majority-dominated country.
The population shift also has great implications for the nation’s overall health. The groups that will soon make up the majority of our citizens suffer from significant health care disparities by almost every indicator—access, quality of care and health status.
The New America
In the 1950’s, the U. S. Census reported that whites were roughly 90 percent of the population, while Blacks were 10 percent. In the 1970’s, whites were approximately 84 percent of the population, Blacks 11 percent, and Hispanics 5 percent. By 1990, whites were less than 79 percent and Blacks and Hispanics were 12 percent and 9 percent, respectively.
As of 2011, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and other minority groups account for 50.4 percent of births, 49.7 percent of all children under five years old and slightly more than half of the 4 million children under one year old. A key reason is that a greater share of the minority population is of child-bearing age. Striking median age differences exist between races; Hispanics (27.6) and whites (42.3) are on either end of this spectrum, while African Americans (30.9) and Asians (33.2) are in between.
Yet, we live in a country where, “African Americans live sicker and die younger than any other group of Americans,” according to noted medical sociologist Thomas LaVeist, PhD, director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. And many other diverse groups struggle to obtain needed care and manage a range of chronic health problems—a situation that greatly contributes to national health care costs and underscores the need for health care policies and institutions capable of addressing health disparities.
By Cheryl Chun, MS, MA, Health Policy Scholar, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College
Being a public school teacher was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I spent my days trying to not only excite my students about mathematics, but also to help change their life trajectory by encouraging them to go to college.
Neither of these tasks was easy. Many of my students cited math as their least favorite subject in school. And despite the college atmosphere my colleagues and I worked diligently to create, many of my students struggled to accomplish the necessary coursework and SAT scores they needed for college.
I realized that teaching high-needs students was more complicated than having a good lesson plan. While I will always believe in the importance of having a good teacher in the classroom and up-to-date resources for them to use, my time in the classroom has showed me that often good students fall behind in school because of obstacles they face outside school. My students had to deal with guns and gang violence, not enough money for basic needs, and inadequate access to medical care. Many had no medical insurance and would miss class to spend all day waiting in line at free clinics to translate for their sick parent; or be too exhausted to come to class after spending all night with their sick child in the Emergency Room. I also saw how inadequate nutrition could affect students’ behaviors and their ability to learn.
Witnessing these needs in my classroom inspired me to go back to school and become a physician.
While I hope that I made an impact on my students while I was their teacher, I know they made an impact on me and changed my life trajectory. I hope to one day practice in a medically underserved area and help provide care to those who need it most.
Human Capital News Roundup: RWJF Scholars in the Media Discussing Children's Playgrounds, Women's Health Costs, and Much More
Here’s a sampling of recent news coverage of the work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars and Fellows:
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Senior Program Officer Maryjoan Ladden, PhD, RN, FAAN, was a guest blogger for The Doctor Weighs In, posting about the importance of interprofessional collaboration and coordination, drawing on the latest edition of Charting Nursing’s Future. Ladden is also an alumna of the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program.
RWJF Health & Society Scholars program National Advisory Committee member Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, wrote an op-ed for the Austin American Statesman about Salud America, an RWJF research network working to prevent obesity among Latino children.
Gary A. Taubes, MSE, MS, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, was featured in an Orlando Sentinel four-part special report about why so many Americans are obese. The series examined what we eat, the influence of heredity, lifestyle and the environment. Taubes is the author of “Why We Get Fat.” Read more about Taubes’ work.
The reasons that some playgrounds don’t appeal to children are explored in new research by RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumna Kristen A. Copeland, MD, FAAP. MedPage Today reports on the study’s findings. Reuters and United Press International (UPI) also reported on Copeland’s research. Read about Copeland’s research on factors that impede physical activity in child care settings.
By Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Every year, the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting features some of the best and brightest minds in health and health care. Taking place in Washington, D.C. from October 29 to November 2, it is a cutting edge event that advances critical research, helps shape policy and practice, and stimulates thinking on some of the most pressing health issues of our time. APHA notes that it is the oldest and largest gathering of public health professionals and, in my experience it is easily one of the most influential. I am very proud that, this year, it will feature dozens of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars, fellows, alumni, grantees, staff and others who have been touched by Foundation programs.
Perhaps most exciting is that Melvin D. Shipp, OD, MPH, DrPH, a former RWJF Health Policy Fellow (1989-1990), is beginning his term as president of this prestigious organization. Shipp is dean of The Ohio State University College of Optometry and past president of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. He will hold the APHA leadership position for two years, and I know he will do great things during that time. At the meeting, Shipp will lead a session on the Health Policy Fellows program, explaining the experience and its impact on participants.
Among the many others from the RWJF “family” who will be featured at the annual meeting are: