Author Archives: Tracy Orleans

A Conversation on the Future of Health Equity Research

Jan 12, 2017, 4:43 PM, Posted by Tracy Orleans

In the past decade, the healthy equity research landscape has shifted from building the evidence to identifying solutions. David Williams and Paula Braveman share thoughts on the evolution of research with a look to the future.

The latest National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine report notes that compared to other fields of health research, health inequities is still a relatively new field that faces significant research and practical application challenges. The consensus report provides specific recommendations including: expanded health disparity indicators, longer-term studies, an examination of structural factors, and new research funding opportunities. RWJF’s Tracy Orleans talks with two of the nation’s leading experts on health equity and health disparities, Dr. David R. Williams and Dr. Paula Braveman, who share their thoughts on some of these issues and the evolution of research with a look to the future. 


Tracy Orleans: Nearly ten years ago you started work together on the RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America. At the time, gaps in health between groups of people or communities were not news to health experts, but they were surprising to a lot of others. We’ve come a long way since then with a more explicit focus on health equity research. How do you view this shift?

 

David Williams: For a long time, researchers focused on documenting the health differences between populations. Those differences are now well-established and we’re able to point to more scientific evidence about why the gaps exist. For example, there’s a growing body of research around the effects of epigenetic aging, which shows that people who experience discrimination or other trauma are biologically older than people of the same chronological age. Science shows that their telomeres, which protect chromosomes from fraying, are shorter among both children and adults who are black, poor, or from unstable homes. This type of more explicit health equity research is a rapidly growing field.

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What's Next Health: A New World for Changing Health Behavior

Jul 8, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Tracy Orleans

Tracy Orleans Senior Scientist Tracy Orleans

Each month, What’s Next Health talks with leading thinkers about the future of health and health care. Recently, we talked with Jake Porway, founder of DataKind about Big Data in service of humanity. In this post, RWJF's Senior Scientist Tracy Orleans reflects on Jake's visit to the Foundation.

How is it that Edna St. Vincent Millay was able to describe so eloquently the magic and potential of big data in 1939? This favorite poem has been hanging above my desk for years:

”Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric.”

As I listened to Jake Porway, founder of DataKind, talk passionately during his recent visit about the many ways big data could be harnessed for social good, I was inspired and energized. It was an “aha” moment.

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