Health Disparities

The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Blog Series

Yukiko Asada, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine
Dalhousie University
Nova Scotia, Canada

 

A Lesson from Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Health Disparities Wonderland  

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
(Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland1)

Photo of Dr. Yukiko Asada

Dr. Yukiko Asada

Expressing truth about life, this conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat is beloved and used in many contexts. Its profound power as a metaphor can also be applied to the science of measurement of health disparities. In Health Disparities Wonderland, Alice might ask, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here to put an end to health disparities?” “That depends a good deal on what you mean by health disparities and how you measure and understand them,” would reply the Cat.

In “Harmonizing health disparities measurement” in the special issue of American Journal of Public Health,2 we argued for the science of measurement of health disparities. We believed by now few health disparities researchers and policy-makers would actually answer as Alice would, “I don’t much care about measurement.” But it is not enough for each of us to care. In the article, we urged all of us in the field of health disparities to engage in a community-wide consensus building for harmonization in measurement practice. Continue reading “The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Blog Series”

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The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research

Diverse group of students eating lunch
Obesity Post - school lunch v2

Co-authored by
Tanya Agurs-Collins, Ph.D., RD
Health Behaviors Research Branch
Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences
National Cancer Institute, NIH 

Susan Persky, Ph.D.
Associate Investigator and Head of the Communication, Attitudes, and Behavior Unit
Immersive Virtual Environment Testing Area, Social and Behavioral Research Branch
National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH 

Disparities in Obesity Require Multilevel Approaches
Multilevel Approaches Require More Research

Photo of Dr. Tanya Agurs-Collins

Dr. Tanya Agurs-Collins

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Dr. Susan Persky

As part of the NIMHD special issue New Perspectives to Advance Minority Health and Health Disparities Research, we and our co-authors focused on designing and assessing multilevel interventions to improve minority health and reduce health disparities.1 Multilevel interventions, based on the socioecological framework2, involve intervening on at least two levels of influence at the same time. We chose this topic because multilevel interventions are an extremely challenging and often expensive undertaking that require myriad decisions and plans, yet it is becoming clear that such interventions are a necessary approach for overcoming great disparities evident in the public’s health, particularly for conditions like obesity. Continue reading “The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research”

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The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Blog Series

Silhouette of twins

By Arline T. Geronimus, Sc.D.
Professor, Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health
Research Professor, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research
University of Michigan

Understanding Health Disparities through the Life Course

Photo of Dr. Arline T. Geronimus

Dr. Arline T. Geronimus

My monozygotic twins—now young men—never engaged in parallel play with each other. Parallel play is a type of toddler-to-preschool play where, even though two or more children are in the same room or even the same sandbox, they each remain absorbed in their own personal activity and do not interact. Yet before they could walk or talk, my sons delighted in playing together, cooperating on projects, and putting on musical performances that they would end by bowing in unison, each one’s arm around the other’s waist. They scaled higher heights, literally, than playing alone. We found them lying on the tops of our highest kitchen cabinets, giggling together, when they were 2. Even strapped into their stroller, they enacted perfectly synchronized and complexly coordinated routines we called “stroller surfing,” which were at once wonderful and hair-raising to watch and noticeably enchanting to passersby. Continue reading “The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Blog Series”

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New Blog Series on the Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research

AJPH Cover Images
Introduction Image_AJPH Cover

By Nancy Jones, Ph.D., M.A.
Scientific Program Officer, Community Health and Population Sciences
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

AJPH Cover ImagesThis blog series includes perspectives from authors of the American Journal of Public Health supplement, New Perspectives to Advance Minority Health and Health Disparities Research. The supplement highlights strategies to stimulate research for improving minority health and closing the gap in health disparities.

In 2015, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) began an initiative to create a scientific vision to transform minority health and health disparities. I served as a co-chair for one of the three pillars for the visioning process with several other NIMHD colleagues and guest editor for a supplement of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), entitled New Perspectives to Advance Minority Health and Health Disparities Research. Continue reading “New Blog Series on the Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research”

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Exploring the Potential of Artificial Intelligence to Improve Minority Health and Reduce Health Disparities

By Natasha Williams, Ph.D., J.D., LL.M., M.P.H.
Legislative Liaison
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Natasha Williams

Dr. Natasha Williams

Over the last 20 years, the diagnosis and treatment of disease has advanced at breakneck speeds. Currently, we have technologies that have revolutionized the practice of medicine, such as telemedicine, precision medicine, Big Data, and medical artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies, especially AI, promise to improve the quality of patient care, lower health care costs, and better patient treatment outcomes. However, the impact of AI on minority health and health disparities has been largely understudied.

What is AI? The definition of AI is broad and varied and has many subareas. However, the common theme is the ability to “automate or replicate intelligent behavior.”1 Machine learning, which is a subcategory of AI, is the ability of computers to teach themselves and create their own programming. Deep learning, another AI technique, mimics the human brain by creating an artificial neuronal network. Natural language processing (NLP), which was applied by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)–funded researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and is discussed later in the post, helps computers interpret human language. These methods recognize patterns in the data. Since AI is fueled by data, it is imperative that the data be of good quality, inclusive, and free from bias.2 If we fail to ensure these three principles, we could exacerbate health disparities. Continue reading “Exploring the Potential of Artificial Intelligence to Improve Minority Health and Reduce Health Disparities”

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National Nutrition Month: It’s Your Time to Win!

Armstrong

By Patrice Armstrong, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Office of Science Policy, Strategic Planning, Analysis, Reporting, and Data
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Patrice Armstrong

Dr. Patrice Armstrong

Happy and healthy “National Nutrition Month!” Whether your journey for optimal health is progressing or needs a boost, congratulations on taking strides toward a healthier lifestyle.

Healthy eating is shaped by each person’s life, personal preferences, cultural influences, traditions, and access to food. Nutrition-related health disparities persist disproportionately for chronic conditions among minority populations, compared to non-Hispanic Whites in the United States. In 2009–2012, significantly more  Black men (43%) and women (44%) had high blood pressure than their White counterparts.1 Hispanics are 50% more likely to die from diabetes,2 and obesity rates of 38% for Blacks and 32% for Hispanics3 are of epidemic proportions. High blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity also increase the risk for heart disease.

Continue reading “National Nutrition Month: It’s Your Time to Win!”

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