Health disparities

News

Prof. Consuelo H. Wilkins

"Law, Genomic Medicine & Health Equity" Event Tackles Policy Needs

December 3, 2018

On Thursday, Nov. 29 a group of eminent scholars and researchers convened at Meharry Medical College in Nashville to evaluate the current state of precision medicine and how access to it can be improved. Conference presenters shared a wide-ranging array of information about obstacles and solutions to delivering genomic medicine in clinical settings, with a particular focus on policies to promote health equity. The event, which involved several dozen in-person attendees and 200 webcast viewers, concluded with a talk by Consuelo H. Wilkins (Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance). Prof. Wilkins described her work with the federal All of Us Research Program, for which she serves as head of the Engagement Core. She emphasized the need to address the underrepresentation of minority populations in research, as well as mistrust and limited genomic literacy. One of the important takeaways from Prof. Wilkins' talk was the need to reframe the benefits to research participants of collaborating in studies, from returning results to returning value – that is, information these communities find useful. The event was presented by the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Consortium, and the Minnesota Precision Medicine Collaborative. A special symposium based on the conference will be published in and issue of Ethnicity & Disease guest edited by Marino Bruce (Vanderbilt University), Vence L. Bonham (National Human Genome Research Institute - NHGRI) and Consortium Chair Susan M. Wolf (University of Minnesota). Video of conference sessions will be posted in the next 10 days; to receive notification, please email consortm@umn.edu

Conference

News

Logo of Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

MPMC, Mille Lacs Band Partner to Reduce Lung Cancer Disparities

May 11, 2018

An article in the Brainerd Dispatch describes a new collaboration between members of the Minnesota Precision Medicine Collaborative (MPMC) and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; together, they will "investigate aspects of lung cancer and nicotine metabolism from commercial tobacco use that may be unique to the American Indian populations in Minnesota." As part of this effort, researchers will conduct two pilot studies, one on the rate of nicotine metabolism in members of the Band and one on a new approach to lung cancer treatment and early detection. Pamala Jacobson, one of the leaders of MPMC, emphasizes the need for researchers to take the time to establish authentic, honorable working relationships within communities affected by health disparities. "For precision medicine approaches to be effective, we have to know how to apply this exciting new science to all populations, not just healthcare systems in metropolitan areas or those serving high income patients," said Jacobson. "Conducting the needed research and implementing precision medicine to benefit the health of American Indians and other minority populations is a priority." In addition to Prof. Jacobson, Consortium chair Susan M. Wolf is also an MPMC leader. To learn more, click here.

News

Baby

Georgieff Co-authors AAP Policy Statement on Infant Nutrition

February 12, 2018

Two University of Minnesota professors have co-authored a major nutrition policy paper on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Sarah Jane Schwarzenberg of Masonic Children's Hospital and Michael K. Georgieff of the Center for Neurobehavioral Development, a Consortium member, wrote the report on behalf of the AAP's Committee on Nutrition. The article recommends foods that ensure healthy brain development in the first three years of life. It also notes that, while breast milk is preferable for a baby's first six months, after that breastfeeding moms and their partners should supplement infant diets with a variety of foods rich in iron and zinc, including lean meats, fruits and vegetables. An article in MedPage Today outlines the paper's policy recommendations related to major programs such as Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), all of which are important to ensuring the availability of healthy food options. The authors encourage pediatricians to provide guidance on "informed food choices" and help families connect with nutritional programs such as food pantries and soup kitchens. Prof. Georgieff is a member of the Consortium's Executive Committee

News

Nanibaa’ A. Garrison

Navajo Nation Reconsiders Ban on Genetic Research

October 16, 2017

An article in Nature News and Comment discusses a growing interest in genetic research within the Navajo Nation. DNA studies were banned in 2002 because of concerns about the misuse of genetic materials. Now, tribal leaders "increasingly see genetic research as a tool to improve medical care for the 174,000 residents of their sprawling reservation, which is roughly the size of Scotland." Consortium collaborator Nanibaa’ Garrison, PhD, a member of the Navajo Nation who is a professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, is among those helping develop the new policy. She indicates the plan is likely to address types of research that will be allowed, who will have access to genetic information, and who will provide oversight. Prof. Garrison has written widely on genetics, with a focus on health conditions prevalent in American Indian communities, such as type 2 diabetes. She is author or co-author of two articles on related topics that were published in a special symposium of the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics; here's a link to that issue, for which Consortium chair Susan Wolf was one of the editors.

News

Prof. J. Neil Henderson

$10 Million Gift Will be Used to Found Native American Health Center

September 13, 2017

An anonymous donor has given $10 million to the Medical School at University of Minnesota, Duluth, which will be used to build on the school's already strong foundation in Native American health. According to the Duluth News Tribune, "In any given year, Native Americans comprise about 10 percent of the university's medical school class. . . . Moreover, the six faculty members at the school's Duluth campus who are Native American comprise about a quarter of all Native Americans on medical school faculties in the entire country. Only about 1 percent of the nation's doctors are Native American." Among those UMD faculty members is Prof. J. Neil Henderson, PhD, an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation. He notes that the private gift, which has very few stipulations attached to it, could fund portions of research not covered by federal grants. Prof. Henderson spoke at the Consortium-sponsored research ethics conference last March, on the inter-cultural aspects of working with American Indian institutional research boards when conducting research. You can see his talk here.

News

Baby

Surrogacy Demand Surges Despite Resistance

May 16, 2017

Gestational surrogacy has been available in the US since at least 1976, and over the past 40 years an increasing number of people have sought women willing to carry a baby to term for them. According to an article in The Economist, "Though the number of children born globally each year through surrogacy is unknown, at least 2,200 were born in America in 2014, more than twice as many as in 2007" – despite calls by feminists and religious leaders to regulate or ban the practice outright because they consider it exploitative. Among the reasons is the lack of clear regulations across state and national lines, which allows those who want to hire a surrogate to move their search to different countries when they confront obstacles; the article notes, "rather than ending the trade, tighter rules are simply moving it elsewhere." Read the entire piece here

News

Paul Ryan holding a copy of the American Health Care Act

What Americans Will Really Dislike About 'Trumpcare'

May 8, 2017

An article in the Washington Post co-authored by University of Minnesota health policy professor Sarah Gollust analyzes the bill that passed the US House of Representatives last week. Gollust and her co-researchers conducted a national survey in March asking 1,588 Americans what they knew about the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) and the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA, also known as Trumpcare), whether their views of these programs were favorable or unfavorable, and how completely they understood each. The results? Among those surveyed, even those who were aware of the ACA requirement to purchase insurance or pay a penalty prefer the ACA to the AHCA. Of particular concern regarding the AHCA was its penalty for enrollment gaps, fines that would be paid to insurers. The authors conclude the enrollment gap could be used as an additional line of attack by anti-AHCA activists, noting "the public is already concerned about protections for people with preexisting conditions, huge cuts to the Medicaid program, and citizens losing insurance. Highlighting the AHCA’s coverage-gap penalty could drop public support further."

News

Logo for Petrie Flom Center, Harvard Law School

Patient-led Medicine Symposium on Harvard Bill of Health Blog

March 6, 2017

A symposium published today on Bill of Health, a blog edited by the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School, expands on discussions held at the Consortium's Deinard Memorial Lecture last December, "How Patients Are Creating Medicine’s Future." The Deinard lecture featured four speakers – Ernesto Ramirez of Fitabase, Jason Bobe of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Barbara Evans of the University of Houston Law Center, and Kingshuk K. Sinha of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. The Bill of Health symposium provides commentary on their lectures and further reflections on the ways citizen science and wearables are transforming both health care and medical research. A video of the entire Deinard lecture can be viewed here

News

Baby

Racial Disparities in Infant Mortality Examined

February 16, 2017

An article in The Nation, "What’s Killing America’s Black Infants?" provides a sobering analysis of the disproportionately high death rate among African-American babies. Despite decades of interventions and public health initiatives, the racial infant mortality gap actually grew during the 1980s and 90s: during that time, "Black women who received prenatal care starting in the first trimester were still losing children at higher rates than white women who never saw a doctor during their pregnancies." This led to research into whether black women have a genetic predisposition to poor birth outcomes, which was largely disproven. However, more recently, "a growing body of evidence points to racial discrimination, rather than race itself, as the dominant factor in explaining why so many black babies are dying." The article profiles efforts in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which has one of the worst infant-mortality rates of all US cities, to reverse the trend.

News

Nurse taking man's hearbeat with stethoscope

Health Disparities Training and Funding Opportunities

October 28, 2016

Prof. Kola Okuyemi, MD, MPH, has been awarded a $1.5M grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to educate researchers about reducing cancer-related health disparities among underserved populations. Prof. Okuyemi, Director of the Program in Health Disparities Research, says these trainings are designed to "prepare predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees with the knowledge and skills necessary to conduct cancer-related health disparities intervention research." In related news, the Center for Healthy African American Men through Partnerships (CHAAMPS), a joint program of the University of Minnesota and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), has announced two funding opportunities: Pilot Projects (4-6 grants available to faculty from Minnesota, UAB, Johns Hopkins University, MD Anderson Cancer Center and UC Davis) and the Scholars Disparities Program (2-4 grants available to grad students, post-docs, medical residents, medical fellows and faculty at the same institutions). To learn more about deadlines, etc., click on the links above or contact Laurel Nightingale, MPH, MPP, CHAAMPS Collaborations Coordinator, at nigh0021@umn.edu.

News

DNA spiral made of people

Consortium Chair, 3 Colleagues Awarded Grand Challenges Research Grant

September 29, 2016

Consortium Chair Susan Wolf and three Co-Investigators – Profs. Pamala JacobsonKingshuk Sinha, and Ellen Demerath – on behalf of the Working Group on Advancing Health Through Tailored Solutions, have been awarded a Grand Challenges grant from the Office of the Provost to establish the Minnesota Precision Medicine Collaborative (MPMC). This 2-year, $500,000 grant will fund creation of a transformative University-wide initiative to use 21st century technologies – including genomics, informatics, bioengineering, analysis of environmental exposures, and behavioral sciences – to tailor health care to the challenges facing individuals and their communities. This precision medicine approach will fundamentally alter our understanding of health, disease prevention, and treatment. Core to this project is partnering with citizens, patients, and healthcare providers to understand and effectively address major health problems. MPMC will create a living laboratory, starting with demonstration projects on Alzheimer’s disease, lung cancer, and depression. All three are diseases whose incidence, burden, and mortality rates reveal disturbing health disparities. This focus will enable us to leverage U of M research strengths across many disciplines and to engage with partners in the health industry and Minnesota’s underserved communities. By investing in the development and delivery of precision medicine, our university will contribute to the national effort to transform science, medicine, and public health through more precise understanding of the factors contributing to health and disease. MPMC aims to make a unique contribution through collaborative research, cutting-edge innovation, responsible policy, and sustained commitment to improving health equitably across our communities.    

News

Doctor in patient's room with clipboard

Public Invited to Weigh in on Toughest Medical Ethics Decisions

August 24, 2016

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, health care providers at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans faced a grim choice: in the midst of a crisis, who among their patients should be evacuated to better conditions? For many in the general public, news coverage (and later a book) about what happened at Memorial was the first time they truly became aware of medical rationing. The first article in a new collaboration between the New York Times and Radio Lab, "Playing God," describes an unusual public debate on the subject being led by Dr. Lee Daugherty Biddison and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Daugherty Biddison is leading a task force that will "make recommendations for [Maryland] state officials that could serve as a national model." She and her team are holding a series of public forums to hear opinions from laypeople on topics like: should a doctor be able to remove one person from a ventilator to give it to another with a better chance of surviving? During cancer drug shortages, how should doctors choose which patients receive them? Should such decisions be randomized, through a lottery, or based on a patient's age or likelihood of survival? Renowned bioethicist Ruth Faden of Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics praised the effort, noting “It’s a novel and important attempt to turn extremely complicated core ethical considerations into something people can make sense of and struggle with in ordinary language.”

News

Arrest disparities in the Twin Cities map

U Professors Shine a Spotlight on Racial Disparities

July 21, 2016

In the wake of another fatal police shooting of an African-American man, Philando Castile, who was killed during a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb, there's been an increased focus on racial inequities in Minnesota. One of the scholars with the longest history of studying these issues, Myron Orfield, JD, is on the faculty of the University of Minnesota's Law School; since Castile's death, Orfield has been widely interviewed discussing housing segregation, unequal policy enforcement, and other aspects of the state's institutionalized racism. Minnesota suffers from a yawning academic achievement gap between white students and students of color; the worst record of financial inequity in the nation; and a serious problem with socioeconomic and health disparities. A recent lecture hosted by the Consortium, by Prof. Sidney Watson, JD (University of St. Louis Law School) describes tools in the Affordable Care Act to increase health justice; that talk can be viewed online

News

Prof. Brooke Cunningham

Racial Gaps and Health Disparities in the News

April 11, 2016

University of Minnesota faculty members have been making headlines for their work addressing connections between race and health care disparities. An article in STAT profiles Prof. Brooke Cunningham, MD, PhD (Medical School), a physician and sociologist who recently taught first-year medical students about the dangers of misunderstanding the concept of race. In her lecture, Prof. Cunningham pointed out that race is not a fixed, scientific category, cautioning these future doctors to think critically about using racial characteristics in diagnosing and treating patients. Her lecture was part of a course taught by Prof. David Satin, MD (Medical School), whose recent scholarship on why black patients are sometimes undertreated for pain was profiled on PBS NewshourProf. Dorothy E. Roberts, JD (University of Pennsylvania) was also interviewed during the segment; her 2010 Deinard Memorial Lecture on Law & Medicine, "What's Wrong with Race-Based Medicine," can be viewed here.  

News

Kathleen Call

Health Insurance Complexity Demands Consumer Literacy

January 1, 2016

As we move through the health insurance enrollment season, parsing terms like "coinsurance" and an alphabet soup of acronyms (FSA, HSA, HRA, HDHP) can present real obstacles to making informed decisions. An article from National Public Radio (NPR) provides some comfort for the bewildered, noting that even those who work in health care fields struggle with the terminology. Kathleen Call, a professor in the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, notes: "We've created a monster, and it's not surprising to me that there's literacy issues. I've studied this stuff, and sometimes I make mistakes." Among Call's areas of study is the way complexity compromises public health and increases health disparities. Luckily, the article includes a graphic that explains the terms that most frequently cause confusion; you can view it here