Published May 20, 2020
UB’s Community Health Equity Research Institute will host a live “Virtual Colloquium to Advance Health Equity Research in Buffalo” from 8:30 a.m. to noon May 21.
The general public is welcome to attend via Webex.
Planning for the event began long before the COVID-19 pandemic, says Tim Murphy, director of the institute and SUNY Distinguished Professor, but, he notes, the crisis certainly reinforces its relevance.
“The pandemic just makes this whole topic more important and more visible,” says Murphy, who is also director of UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, funded by the National Institutes of Health. “It’s the people who experience social determinants of health who are suffering the most.”
He explains that most of the long-term solutions to health disparities are not even about health and health care. “If we do things to improve health care, we will have no more than a 10-20% impact on social determinants of health,” he says, noting that other factors contribute far more significantly to health disparities.
“It’s poverty, it’s unemployment, not having safe walkable neighborhoods, failing school systems, poor public transportation and poor access to healthy food that are some of the things that contribute to these disparities,” Murphy says.
In addition to the researchers, Rev. Kinzer Pointer and other community leaders will be present and Pointer will address the colloquium.
At the colloquium, UB faculty will discuss a range of research projects focused on Buffalo, among them gentrification and health disparities, improving asthma care in high poverty schools, the problem of intimate partner violence, and various methods of directly addressing disparities using telemedicine or programs to empower patient ambassadors ─ such as UB’s Patient Voices program ─ as well as how to conduct community-based participatory research that will benefit the community where the research is being done.
One talk will focus on a project that does address COVID-19, headed by Oscar Gomez, associate professor of pediatrics and division chief of infectious diseases in the Department of Pediatrics at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. Gomez wants to increase testing for COVID-19 antibodies and deliver educational interventions to the East Side community. He’s also working to establish a biobank of clinical samples, including blood cells, plasma and saliva to support continued research on protective immune responses to COVID-19.
Murphy notes that years of working with community leaders and groups on the East Side have proven that in the past, when researchers conducted community research projects, the community sometimes felt as though the major goal was to publish papers, not necessarily to assist or improve the community.
“A focus of this colloquium is to make sure that the research that we do has an impact on the community,” he says.
The purpose of this event is to begin fostering multidisciplinary working groups of faculty at UB who can submit funding applications for research projects that will advance the health and well-being of African Americans in Buffalo. One focus will be on working toward submitting a large center grant to the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities of the NIH.
“We can’t keep doing the same things,” Murphy says. “It’s incredible to look at some of the health outcomes and they’re the same now as they were 30 years ago. A big goal of this event and of the institute in general is listening.”