Health Disparities

News

Nanibaa Garrison

Increased Diversity Needed in Genomic Databases

April 18, 2019

An article in Nature describes the need for more diversity in genomic research. As of 2018, 78% of data use in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) were derived from people of European descent. Last November, the Consortium sponsored a conference, "Law, Genomic Medicine & Health Equity: How Can Law Support Genomics and Precision Medicine to Advance the Health of Underserved Populations?" Among the speakers was Nanibaa' Garrison (Seattle Children's, University of Washington). Prof. Garrison, a member of the Navajo Nation, works with Native American leaders to address ethical concerns about genetic research within tribal communities. View her presentation, along with a related one by Native scholar Spero Manson (University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus). The conference, held at Meharry Medical College, was co-sponsored by the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, and the Minnesota Precision Medicine Collaborative.

News

John Song, physician and bioethicist at University of Minnesota

Remembering Dr. John Song

March 1, 2019

With great sadness, we note the passing of Prof. John Song, MD, MPH, MAT, a faculty member in the University's Center for Bioethics and Department of Medicine. Dr. Song was an exemplary physician, bioethicist, and human being – a crucial member of the University’s ethics community. The Center for Bioethics memorial notes his "staunch advocacy for disadvantaged people, compassionate care for all, devoted mentorship for students, and generous collegiality." Prof. Song joined the University faculty in 2000, where his clinical practice and research reflected his strong commitment to meeting the health care needs of homeless people, including conducting groundbreaking research focusing on end-of-life care and homelessness. He founded the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic in Minneapolis, was faculty advisor to the Interprofessional Street Outreach Program, and served as Director of Graduate Studies at the Center for Bioethics. The University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) has established a new award for excellence in John’s honorConsortium chair Susan Wolf reflects that, “John’s passing is a profound loss to us all. The memory of his extraordinary commitment and caring, his deep engagement with ethics, and his tremendous kindness will live on.” The Star Tribune obituary can be read here.    

News

Globe made out of puzzle pieces

CIDRAP Awarded $5 Million Gift to Address Global Drug Shortages

January 16, 2019

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) has received a $5.4 gift from the Walton Family Foundation to "develop and provide a roadmap for both the public and private sectors to build resilience in the global health care supply system and to improve the availability of critical medical supplies," according to the University of Minnesota. The co-directors of the team administering the project are both directors of Consortium member centers, Michael T. Osterholm at CIDRAP and Amy Kircher at the Food Protection and Defense Institute. Osterholm has been vocal about the inadequacy of drug and medical supplies in the face of a medical emergency. He notes: “We know, based on our recent experience, that there will be more and more incidents where necessary drugs or medical supplies will be unavailable to those in crisis and, increasingly, the consequences are truly about life and death.” Kircher uses the example of the aftereffects of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico: "That natural disaster not only created a public health crisis on the ground but effectively disrupted the global supply of a critical medical supply, IV bags. This work will create an opportunity for us to apply research and build operational solutions to mitigate those surprises.”

News

Hands of people of different skin tones reaching for scales of justice

Genomic Equity Conference Videos Now Available

January 10, 2019

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. Perspectives and research were shared by leading African American, Native American and Latino scholars, as well as those involved in immigrant rights and other civil rights issues. This national symposium is the first to discuss legal, policy, community outreach and clinical approaches to ensure that genomic medicine advances health equity and avoids worsening health disparities. The event was presented by the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Consortium, and the Minnesota Precision Medicine Collaborative, and is part of the NIH-funded LawSeqSM project, which is dedicated to building a sound legal foundation for translating genomics into clinical application. View videos of conference sessions on our YouTube channel

Research

Pills in the form of a DNA spiral

Minnesota Precision Medicine Collaborative (MPMC) II: Toward Pharmacogenomics-Enabled Healthcare at Statewide Scale — Implementing Precision Medicine

MPMC’s new initiative is among the six interdisciplinary projects selected to receive Grand Challenges Research Interdisciplinary Team Awards from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. MPMC II focuses on one of the most mature domains of precision medicine – pharmacogenomics (PGx), which despite its proven scientific basis and immense promise has not yet been widely implemented in healthcare systems. 

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."