Addressing racism in cardiometabolic health research

Addressing racism in cardiometabolic health research

Pennington Biomedical Research Center hosted Michele Allen, M.D., and Kene Orakwue, MPH for the Forge AHEAD April seminar where they presented on their innovative approaches to combatting health disparities, building on a framework that acknowledges the deep impact that racism has on health outcomes.

Allen, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and MPI for the C2DREAM Center, provided an in-depth overview of the center’s objectives and methods, emphasizing their proactive stance against racism in health research.

She noted, “We are striving to advance this field… We have significant partnerships with indigenous groups, reflecting our commitment to anti-colonial perspectives and the parallels among indigenous, Black, and immigrant communities.” This underscores the center’s dedication to inclusivity and diversity in health research, acknowledging various dimensions of racism and colonial impacts.

Allen further emphasized the critical need for incorporating a framework that considers racism in health research, stating, “To dismantle racism, we must understand how it functions and manifests, not only within communities but also within our research endeavors.

It is essential for health equity researchers to consider racism both as a social determinant of health and in how it influences our research methodologies.” This serves as a crucial reminder of the systemic nature of racism and its extensive impact on health disparities.

Structural racism and its impact on health outcomes

Orakwue, doctoral student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, enhanced the dialogue by introducing a detailed framework demonstrating how structural racism affects health outcomes. Orakwue stressed the need for a structural analysis of racism, stating, “It’s crucial to consider racism at a structural level, as health inequities often emerge not just from momentary snapshots but from longstanding systemic issues.” This insight is vital for understanding the prolonged and systemic nature of health disparities driven by racism.

Orakwue also highlighted the complexity of racism, adding, “Racism manifests in various forms; it upholds white supremacy and different oppressive systems, depending on the targeted population… How do we start to address these multifaceted issues?” Her discussion points to the need for a comprehensive approach to tackle racism effectively.

Concluding insights

In her concluding remarks, Allen emphasized the significance of these discussions and frameworks in progressing the battle against health disparities. She affirmed, “This work is foundational to our operations and essential for our continuous efforts to effectively address racial inequities in health. We must persistently refine our understanding and methodologies to ensure our research and interventions are both effective and equitable.”

Facilitating ongoing dialogues on health inequity

These insights from C2DREAM resonate deeply with Forge AHEAD’s mission to challenge health inequities through informed and inclusive research methodologies. By sharing and deliberating on these strategies, Forge AHEAD seeks to deepen the community’s understanding of and engagement with these critical issues.

Engage and discover more

Forge AHEAD invites the community to participate in the upcoming fall seminar series, designed to further explore these and similar themes. This series provides a platform for community members, researchers, and policymakers to actively engage with the challenges and progress in addressing health disparities influenced by systemic racism. We also encourage viewing the recap of our seminar presentations to gain additional insights into how these discussions are evolving and influencing our approach to health equity.

Forge AHEAD is dedicated not only to discussing these issues but also to implementing practical and impactful strategies that address them at the systemic level, ensuring a healthier future for all communities. Join us in this pivotal conversation and be part of the change.

View the recording of the May seminar below:

Pathways to Combat Food Insecurity and Enhance Community Health

Pathways to Combat Food Insecurity and Enhance Community Health

Seth A. Berkowitz, M.D., MPH, explored how tackling food insecurity can significantly improve health outcomes and empower communities at this month’s Forge AHEAD Center (FAC) seminar. The seminar, held at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Population Health, offered a deep dive into the systemic challenges and practical solutions concerning food insecurity—a pressing issue that aligns closely with FAC’s ongoing commitment to health equity and community empowerment.

In his presentation, “Food Insecurity, Diabetes, and Distributive Institutions”, Dr. Berkowitz provided a deep dive into what it means to live without reliable access to nutritious food. He described food insecurity as a “lack of consistent access to the food needed for an active, healthy lifestyle,” a daily reality that many in our communities may be painfully familiar with. “Food insecurity is principally a problem of distributive institutions,” Dr. Berkowitz shared. He emphasized that systemic issues in income distribution greatly impact access to adequate nutrition. This challenge is especially critical for individuals managing chronic conditions like diabetes, where consistent and nutritious meals are crucial for maintaining health.

Dr. Berkowitz called for a combined effort of healthcare solutions and policy changes. He spoke about the benefits of community-supported nutritional programs and policy reforms that aim to break down these barriers. To effectively tackle food insecurity, he emphasized the vital roles of community involvement and policy advocacy. He suggested advocating for improved social safety nets and fair food distribution, supporting local food banks and health programs, and educating others about how health connects with economic and social factors. By getting involved in these ways, everyone can contribute to a deeper understanding and drive meaningful change in their communities.

The insights from Dr. Berkowitz shed light on the connection between food insecurity and health and emphasize how every one of us has a part to play in addressing these challenges. The Forge AHEAD Center is dedicated to sparking change and enabling our community to achieve better health through informed collective action.

Your participation is crucial as we continue to advocate for systemic changes and pursue health equity for everyone. Join us in turning these insights into meaningful community action.

View the recording of the presentation below.

Join us at our next seminar in May, where we will host Michele Allen, M.D., MS, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and one of the leads of the C2DREAM Center (another P50 NIH-funded center part of the Health Equity Action Network), and Kene Orakwue, MPH, doctoral student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities for their presentation titled, “Racism as a foundational contributor to inequities across multiple chronic diseases”. For more details and registration, please visit this page.

Pioneering Paths to Maternal Health Equity: Dr. Sharon J. Herring’s Visit Illuminates Solutions at February FAC Seminar

Pioneering Paths to Maternal Health Equity: Dr. Sharon J. Herring’s Visit Illuminates Solutions at February FAC Seminar

The Forge AHEAD Center’s (FAC) Scientific Seminar Series recently featured Sharon J. Herring, MD, MPH, an associate professor at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. In collaboration with the Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC) and FAC, Dr. Herring’s visit marks a significant stride toward health equity.

The event kicked off with a lunch meeting where Dr. Herring shared her insights with FAC Pilot Award Scholars and Early-Stage Investigators at UAB, including Camille Worthington, Shena Gazaway, and Kaylee Crockett. This precursor set the stage for Dr. Herring’s compelling presentation, “Addressing Maternal Mortality: Advancing Community-Engaged Solutions,” highlighting the urgent need to tackle racial disparities in maternal health outcomes through community-driven solutions.

Our community, especially Black Americans and low-income populations in the Deep South, faces significant health disparities, notably in maternal health. Dr. Herring’s presentation shone a light on hope, featuring initiatives like Project HEAR and Change of HEART, focused on addressing trauma, building trust, and enhancing community engagement in maternal healthcare.

The Forge AHEAD Center is committed to diminishing health disparities through impactful research, education, and direct community engagement. Dr. Herring’s work underscores the significant impact of our collective efforts, pushing us closer to a future where health equity is not just an ideal but a reality.

Dr. Herring’s insights emphasize the urgency of the Forge AHEAD mission beyond maternal health, calling for systemic changes and community-driven solutions across all aspects of health equity. This collaborative endeavor is crucial in addressing the health disparities that plague our communities, highlighting the importance of informed action and advocacy for a healthier future for everyone.

View the recording of the presentation below.

Join Us for the Next Seminar: Your participation is crucial in driving our mission forward. Learn how you can be part of the change at our upcoming March seminar event. For details and registration, please visit this page.

Inaugural Forge AHEAD Seminar – A Meaningful Start

Inaugural Forge AHEAD Seminar – A Meaningful Start

Forge AHEAD kicked off the Center’s monthly seminar series on April 26, 2023 as twenty-one attendees from 3 states and multiple institutions gathered on Zoom for a presentation by Drs. Tina Kempin Reuter and Casey Herman. These two presenters shared the results of our their mixed-methods research on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic for family members and caregivers of people with disabilities and chronic diseases. The presentation included sobering feedback from the caregiver community and shed light on the needs of the high-risk population that feels unseen and underrepresented. The summary of Drs. Kempin Reuter and Herman inspired discussion of actionable points, the need for community partner input in research, and advocating for human rights as a motivator for change.

Thank you to our presenters and attendees for the meaningful hour together!

View the recording of the presentation below.