Published March 3, 2021
The goals of the University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Institute (CTSI) Health Inequities Workshop Series are ambitious, varied, and vitally important — now more than ever. The new series, part of the CTSI’s ongoing Core Competency Workshop Series, features national, UB and community content experts. It runs online via Zoom on five Thursdays between March 11 to April 29. Register now on the CTSI website.
The series is designed to help health practitioners, researchers, and others interested in the underlying causes, strategies, and policies at both individual and community levels to reduce health inequities to:
The workshops are free of charge to everyone in the Buffalo Translational Consortium, which includes academic, healthcare and research institutions in the Buffalo region.
CTSI Workforce Development Core Director Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, sees the series as bringing together both “the theme of our NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award and our CTSI Core Competency Workshop Series. It will provide an overview of what is actually happening in Buffalo and around the country in an effort to move towards improving health outcomes for our underserved communities, including African Americans and Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos and Native Americans.”
CTSI Director Timothy F. Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Director, UB Community Health Equity Research Institute, says the topic of health equity is among the most important problems in public health and healthcare.
“Health indicators in the U.S. lag behind those of most other countries in the developed world,” Murphy says. “The main reason for this is health disparities that are present in a large portion of our population. The pandemic has placed a spotlight on longstanding health inequity in communities of color.”
Serving as faculty co-leaders for the series are Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., PhD, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and Director of the Center for Urban Studies, UB School of Architecture and Planning; Associate Director, UB Community Health Equity Research Institute; and Yu-Ping Chang, PhD, RN, Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Endowed Professor; Associate Dean for Research & Scholarship; Department Chair — Family, Community & Health Systems Sciences; UB School of Nursing; and a CTSI Pilot Study Co-Principal Investigator.
These veteran researchers say the time was right for a series geared specifically toward health practitioners.
“We based the timing of the program on a combination of opportunity and need. The pandemic and the brutal murder of George Floyd created awareness and a thirst for knowledge, especially among health professionals.”
“We based the timing of the program on a combination of opportunity and need,” Taylor says. “For the past several years, there has been a growing awareness of the association between the social determinants of health, structural racism, the underdevelopment of Black and Brown neighborhoods, and undesirable health outcomes. The pandemic and the brutal murder of George Floyd created awareness and a thirst for knowledge, especially among health professionals.”
Chang echoes these sentiments, pointing to the discussion about health inequities in relation to race across the country.
“The dialogue has become louder and louder as events of the summer unfolded and also as it became apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic was disproportionately affecting communities of color,” she says. “However, what is important to understand is that the broad health disparities being faced during the spread of COVID-19 reflects health and societal inequities that have existed for communities of color, long before the disease became a pandemic. It seems that the mood of the country is shifting to a place where people are ready to be receptive to this conversation. Our hope is that healthcare workers, especially, are ready to [engage].”
The health inequities workshop, Chang explains, offered an opportunity to help “foster a greater understanding of the structural causes [of health inequities], to fill in the experiential gaps that can create biases, and to give people the skills to think more creatively about the path forward in an effort to transform the healthcare system to better serve people of color.”
“The dialogue has become louder and louder, and the mood of the country is shifting to a place where people are ready to be receptive to this conversation. Our hope is that healthcare workers, especially, are ready to [engage].”
“Once the workshops were in place,” Taylor says, “we developed learning objectives for each workshop and surveyed the faculty at U.B. and elsewhere to determine the best people available for the workshops. We matched the talents of the presenters with the workshops and convinced them to participate.”
Chang calls the presenters a “diverse and experienced group of content experts at UB and our community.” Many are either leaders in research related to health inequities, or community leaders who are advocates for health equality.
Murphy says organizers hope that attendees come away with three main messages.
“First, each of us as healthcare professionals and researchers need to recognize the high prevalence and the importance of heath disparities as a problem in our community and our country,” he explains. “Second, it is important that each of us understands that the social determinants of health are the main driver of health disparities. And finally, I am hopeful that each person who attends this workshop series will ask themselves how their own research and their own work in healthcare can contribute to health equity, particularly in underserved groups.”
In addition to an increased appreciation of the importance of health inequities, Dubocovich would like to see the series inspire “more research initiated surrounding this topic. We also hope that healthcare workers will pay closer attention to issues of health inequities when treating their patients.”
Taylor believes the workshop will “help bridge the cultural gap between health practitioners and the patients they serve by providing them with the knowledge and skills to understand health inequities and acquire the intercultural communications skills needed to become more culturally sensitive and empathetic health practitioners. Also, we want them to understand the need to change conditions inside neighborhoods if we want to abolish health inequities and improve health outcomes for people of color. We have to improve both the quality of care and treatment, as well as transform the neighborhoods in which people of color live.”
Only by “gaining an understanding of the underlying socio-economic causes of health inequities and the structural forces that perpetuate them,” Chang says, can professionals learn how to be more culturally sensitive.
“The workshops will hopefully help attendees to be more knowledgeable and empathetic, helping them to create the type of environment that can be truly transformative,” she says.
The full workshop schedule is: