BEARCATS/health inequities series stimulates conversations around disparities

Over the past several months, the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association’s Academic Health Center alumni engagement team presented webinars that explored public health crises with an attempt to understand the causes and consequences of health inequities. As part of the BEARCATS/health series, the sessions offered opportunities for UC faculty members and community partners to share insights from their research and practice to help alumni address tough issues in our communities.

UC faculty members Barbara Tobias, MD ’87, from the College of Medicine and Anjanette Wells, PhD, LISW, from the College of Allied Health Sciences kicked off the series with “Understanding Health Inequities in Greater Cincinnati and America.” Moderated by alumna Jami Gibson, MSN ’12, CNP, the first session provided an overview of fundamental concepts of health inequities, shared goals for achieving equity through opportunities to be healthy, and discussed challenges for underrepresented minorities to find trusted health care providers. “Over the past 30 years or so, there has been more evidence-based research showing that racial health disparities are due to racism,” shared Dr. Wells. “And even more recently, research has shown that health disparities don’t only affect poor African Americans but also cut across class lines.”

Anna Goroncy, MD, from the College of Medicine presented the second session of the series, “Exploring our Patients’ Contexts: A History of Anti-Black Racism in Cincinnati,” to help local practitioners understand current implications of deep roots of racism and learn how most health inequities in Cincinnati can ultimately be broken down along demographics of race. “Black men city-wide have life expectancies 10 years less than their white counterparts,” Goroncy noted in the presentation. “There's no easy answer to why this exists; disproportionate amounts of poverty, access to healthy lifestyle behaviors, the differing tax base, and health insurance certainly contribute. Yet, in multiple studies, the life expectancy and inequity persist when these factors are taken into account, suggesting that racism itself and discrimination in care also contribute to these differences.”

The third session of the series, “Pain and Prejudice: Inequity in the Opioid Epidemic,” examined the historical context of opioid use in the U.S.; addressed how stigma, bias and systemic inequity have shaped the response to the opioid epidemic; and offered approaches to improve treatment of pain as well as opioid use disorder. James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy faculty member Daniel Arendt, PharmD, BCPS, led the presentation and Christine Colella, DNP, APRN-CNP, FAANP, ’81, ’88, from the College of Nursing moderated. Arendt explained, “Ultimately, we need to meet people where they are and not punish them for the mistakes of healthcare providers. If we start over with a new attitude and a new approach by individualizing patient care, we can begin to improve.”

The health inequities series concluded with a presentation by Samantha Boch, PhD, RN, with the College of Nursing, who discussed “Mass (Parental) Incarceration and Child Health Equity” with insights from School of Social Work alumna Connie Jenkins, LISW-S, LICDC-CS ’12. “The ultimate goal was to have audience members think critically about the role and size of mass incarceration and to understand the effects of parental incarceration on child health,” explained Dr. Boch. Her research seeks to understand experiences of service providers for children of incarcerated parents to identify necessary resources to support this vulnerable population. Nursing alumna Alice Rose ’69 attended the session and shared, “The need is so great and the resources so slim for this population. This was a truly interesting presentation!”

Herb Hunter, PharmD, BCPS ’84, attended all sessions in the series and gained a greater understanding about the importance of understanding disparities. “The series demonstrated that we need to consider viewpoints that had not occurred to us previously, listen to those viewpoints, and learn from those experiences. Diversity and inclusion will ultimately benefit us all." Tabatha Phillips, PharmD ’20, hopes to see programs like this in the future. “I appreciated the UC Alumni Association’s efforts to address critical issues and improve the knowledge gap among providers.”

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Additional Resources