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N.C., Maryland Schools to Create Health Disparities Research Centers

N.C., Maryland Schools to Create Health Disparities Research Centers


Researchers from three North Carolina universities have received grants totaling $1.5 million from the National Institute of Nursing Research to create a Center for Innovation in Health Disparities Research.

The National Institutes of Health agency funded three related grants to support the new center, which will begin operation this fall with offices and directors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C. Central University and Winston-Salem State University.

The center’s goal is to develop nurse researchers who will generate the knowledge to deliver culturally competent care to a diverse and rapidly changing U.S. population.

“This grant will allow the universities to collectively research and collaborate on strategies for advancing the quality of health care while reducing health disparities among patients from diverse cultures,” says Dr. Sylvia Flack, dean of Winston-Salem State’s School of Health Sciences and center director.

Disparity, both in the availability and quality of patient care and among care providers, is a major concern in the health-care field. Research that explores health within the context of culture is more urgently needed now than ever, center researchers said.

They cite statistics from the Center for Health Information and Statistics showing that Latinos are more than 3.2 times as likely and Blacks are more than 10 times as likely to die from AIDS than Whites in North Carolina. In addition, they said, North Carolina’s Blacks are more than two times as likely to die of diabetes while its Mexican-American adults are two to three times more likely to acquire the disease than the state’s Whites. Homicide rates reflect health disparities within the state as well: Blacks are more than four times as likely and Latinos are nearly five times as likely to die due to homicide compared with Whites.

“Health care is not the same for all segments of the population in the U.S.,” says Dr. Betty Dennis, chair of N.C. Central’s department of nursing and a center director. “As a result, health-care outcomes are strikingly different among population groups. Rates of disease, injury and death are higher among some groups. This disparity presents a critically important health care problem.”

Center strategies for reducing health disparities will include facilitating the cultural competence of students and faculty, mentoring faculty and doctoral students, funding pilot studies, providing mentored research experiences for undergraduate and graduate students and collaborating with minority communities to develop research partnerships.

In Maryland, Morgan State University and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health also will team up to create a center dedicated to the study of health disparities among minorities.

Through a $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, researchers at both institutions will create the Center for Health Disparities Solutions.

The center will address cardiovascular disease, diabetes and HIV, some of the most pressing health issues of Baltimore, says Dr. Dorothy Browne, professor of public health and director of the Prevention Sciences Research Center/Drug Abuse Research Program at Morgan State University and one of the principal investigators at the center.

The center will have offices on both campuses, but researchers will work collaboratively and share facilities. Browne said the grant also means the creation of approximately six to seven new jobs at Morgan and similar numbers for Hopkins.

There is also a plan to establish a summer institute to educate participants from around the country on how to conduct research on disparities, and to begin a study to identify precursors of disparities in chronic diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, strokes and heart disease.

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