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Vol. LXIII, No. 22
October 28, 2011

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NIMHD Course Inspires Renewed Fervor to Close Health Gaps

It is difficult to imagine a more diverse group of scholars than those who met for the second NIMHD Translational Health Disparities course, Integrating Principles of Science, Practice and Policy in Health Disparities Research. It wasn’t just the range of their professional backgrounds (the group included psychologists, statisticians, clinicians, epidemiologists, ethicists, public health administrators, environmental scientists and nurses); it was also the variety of approaches they were applying to address health disparities.

NIMHD director Dr. John Ruffin (front, r) and course participants
NIMHD director Dr. John Ruffin (front, r) and course participants
One scholar, a physician, was able to take time from her normal routine of serving the homeless in a San Diego shelter. An environmental scientist had journeyed to NIH from the Crow Reservation in Montana where, along with local tribal members, she was seeking to assess the safety of the water supply. A psychologist in attendance had just completed an internship in Bellevue Hospital’s program for survivors of torture.

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities selected approximately 60 scholars from a pool of about 150 applicants to come to NIH for a 2-week interactive educational forum. Participants were challenged to step away from their professional disciplines and conceptualize health disparities from a variety of new perspectives. The course consisted of 13 modules covering a range of topics including economics, legal implications, social and behavioral science, cultural and migration issues, community-based participatory research and translational health disparities research.

In a session devoted to the social determinants of health, Dr. David Hayes-Bautista of UCLA challenged listeners to explore the meaning of the Census-based racial and ethnic categories currently used to capture health disparities.

Community-based participatory research, in which investigators engage health disparity communities as equal partners in the research process, took center stage in a day-long session.

“This course has profoundly changed the way I view my work in health disparities research,” said Dr. Ethel Nicdao of the University of the Pacific. Added Prof. Gloria Ramsey of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, “I am empowered and renewed in my commitment to give voice—and action—to this important public health problem.”

NIMHD director Dr. John Ruffin noted, “This course is the birth of a new paradigm in translational science. I hope that it will have a long-lasting impact on the participants. They will be able to look back on their participation—and contributions to enhancing the course—with considerable pride and say they became part of the vanguard of a scientific effort that led the way to health equity in America.” NIHRecord Icon

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