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New UC Faculty Member Tackles Health Disparities in Cincinnati

From grassroots efforts to policy innovation, the key is building relationships, Africana Studies Assistant Professor Edward Wallace says.

Date: 2/7/2011
By: Ryan Varney
Other Contact: M.B. Reilly
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Melanie Cannon
Department of Africana Studies Assistant Professor Edward Wallace brings a fountain of knowledge about health in minority communities as he begins his career at the University of Cincinnati.

Growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., Wallace saw the effects of illness, death and personal pain firsthand. Public health issues have surrounded him his whole life. So the desire to learn about these issues and find ways to combat them is strong. More importantly, he learned that knowledge can’t stay bottled up in academia. “We have a social responsibility to share our knowledge with the community at large.”

Africana Studies Professor Edward Wallace
Africana Studies Professor Edward Wallace

Right now Wallace is a liaison with Closing the Health Gap which is an organization here in Cincinnati that looks at reducing and eliminating obesity in our local community. “My background researching health disparities in minority populations helps shed light on ways to reduce or eliminate some of these disparities.”

Despite his wealth of health knowledge, he doesn’t consider himself the expert. The real experts, he says, are the people in the community surrounded by health issues day in and day out. They understand what’s going on in their communities and Wallace believes it’s his job to be a voice for those groups of people whose voices often go unheard.

According to Wallace, the solution to figuring out the pressing issues is pretty straightforward. “Get out amongst the community and into their everyday lives,” he says. “It’s not until we engage with each other and other people in unique, meaningful and valuable ways that we will be able to reduce health disparities and create a world that we all want and deserve.”

Wallace spends several hours in a given week meeting with church leaders, the former mayor and the health commissioner, among others, to address health disparities that continue to impact the African-American community. Life experience has taught him that people want to have a sense of belonging and feel as though they are connected. In order for this to happen there must be a level of trust between the university and the community. “My job is to build that trust and ensure that people in our community have a better quality of life.”

All this relationship building is also great for his students.

“I can take my research, these experiences, and incorporate them into the classroom by educating students on how to enter into a community and build relationships in order to deal with public health issues.”

“In Africana Studies our mission is to promote academic excellence and social responsibility. Part of that is a responsibility to give back to the community, and I think we’re growing in that area,” he says.

Wallace also believes that giving back to the community is a richly rewarding endeavor. “This is a great university and it has many opportunities for people to get involved in the community,” he concludes.

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