Published January 13, 2020
Timothy F. Murphy, MD, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research and SUNY Distinguished Professor of medicine, is leading a major initiative addressing health disparities among people living on Buffalo’s East Side.
The UB Community Health Equity Research Institute will conduct research that addresses the root causes of health disparities while developing and testing innovative solutions to eliminate health inequities in the region.
The vision of the institute is to ensure that wellness and social well-being become a reality for all people in Buffalo, including people of color residing in underserved neighborhoods who are more likely to have serious, chronic and often preventable diseases as well as significantly higher mortality rates.
“We’re pioneering some unique and innovative approaches to medical research and health care in Buffalo,” says Murphy, who is also director of UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute. “With the talent and expertise at UB and other local institutions, we have the opportunity to become a national leader in developing solutions to health inequities.”
Three key goals will guide the center’s work:
Faculty researchers and students from 10 UB schools will collaborate within the institute. In addition to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the institute will be comprised of faculty and students from the following UB schools: Architecture and Planning; Law; Management; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Public Health and Health Professions; Social Work; the College of Arts and Sciences; and the Graduate School of Education.
It will also leverage the expertise and resources of UB’s Community for Global Health Equity, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Office of Research Advancement.
The new UB institute builds on the work of the community-wide African American Health Equity Task Force formed in 2014 in response to the striking health disparities experienced by African Americans in Buffalo, particularly in the East Side zip codes of 14204, 14206, 14211, 14212 and 14215.
The task force is a coalition that includes UB, Cicatelli Associates Inc., Concerned Clergy Coalition of WNY, Erie County Medical Center, Millennium Collaborative Care, NeuWater & Associates LLC, the Population Health Collaborative and other community groups and community members.
African Americans living in the city’s East Side experience higher rates of poverty and suffer from higher rates of lung cancer and infant mortality, in addition to increased risks of hospitalization for heart failure and diabetes compared to the white population, according to the 2017-19 Erie County New York Community Health Assessment by the Erie County Department of Health.
In addition, 3 in 5 African Americans living in Buffalo die prematurely, twice the rate of whites.
Much of this health inequity is caused by social determinants: high unemployment, underdeveloped neighborhoods, absence of grocery stores and poor access to health care, among others.
By uniting UB researchers who possess a broad range of expertise — from medicine and public health to law and management — the institute aims to negate the effects of decades of federal and local policies that have created racial, residential and educational segregation and disinvestment in communities of color.
This model engages the community by allowing residents to drive the research agenda, and participate in the design of the research and the studies conducted.
“This is a historical moment for not only the University at Buffalo, but for the community,” said George F. Nicholas, pastor of Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church and convener of the African American Health Equity Task Force.
Leadership will also include the following associate directors:
The institute will also name a research administrator and a steering committee that will meet monthly to guide strategic priorities.
Funding for the center’s research will come from a variety of sources, with a heavy focus on National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. The center aligns closely with NIH’s funding priorities, which include health disparities research.
The work of the institute will build upon several new and ongoing grant-funded projects underway at UB focused on improving health and access to health care in Buffalo. The projects include: