Students confront health disparities
Health disparities are no laughing matter, but some audience members smile here during a humorous moment in the presentation by James Kyle II, MD, MDiv.
When it comes to making a difference, why wait until graduation? That’s the attitude LLU students have taken about the critical problem of health disparities in America.
Because of their passion, about 350 participants attended an eye-opening four-part conference on health disparities, January 29 through February 1, featuring experts from Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Adelphi University, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.
Medical student Andrew Griffiths attended the conference and found it informative.
“I like the quality and the quantity of the data that the speakers present,” says Mr. Griffiths, who believes he will be more culturally aware as a physician because of the information he learned.
An example of a health disparity is that in 2001, age-adjusted cancer death rates were 25.4 percent higher for African Americans than they were for white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That same year, live-birth infant mortality rates for African-Americans were more than double those of whites.
Other health disparities exist for groups including Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
The student organizers—called the Health Disparities Student Task Force—wanted to accomplish specific goals through the conference.
First, they raised awareness of health disparities. Second, they informed people about current research and efforts to fight disparities. Third, they encouraged students to focus on eliminating this health care problem.
Task force member Tenisha Mitchell, a School of Medicine student, said the conference was eye-opening and great for the University.
“It’s been a good introduction to health disparities,” she says.
The conference convened at lunchtime for three days in Alumni Hall for Basic Sciences, followed by a dinner meeting in Wong Kerlee International Conference Center the fourth day.
Thomas LaVeist, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, spoke the first day of the conference on the idea that “equal access is not equal care.” On the second day, Jean Chin, PhD, of Adelphi University spoke about cultural competence.
James Kyle II, MD, MDiv, presented part two of “equal access is not equal care” on the third day. Dr. Kyle works for Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and is a former dean of Loma Linda University School of Public Health.
The culminating session on February 1 centered around the theme, “Failure is not an option.” Joseph Betancourt, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School spoke. A panel discussion followed.
Videos of the conference will soon be available online; those interested, may e-mail <disparities@llu. edu> for details.
The Health Disparities Student Task Force comprises students from the School of Science and Technology, the School of Public Health, the School of Nursing, and the School of Medicine.
Though the conference is the first major project of the task force, more efforts will follow. Task force leaders envision that one day all LLU students and community partners will be engaged in eliminating health disparities.
“The conference is only one step in the work that needs to be done in order to accomplish our vision,” says Johan Byssainthe, MPH, one of two Loma Linda University School of Public Health students who initiated the task force.
For more information about upcoming initiatives of the Health Disparities Student Task Force, send an e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
By Heather Reifsnyder