Community Outreach Efforts Can Help Address Racial Health Disparities, Opinion Piece Says
Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that "involving the members of the community as partners in research can make a big difference in overcoming" the racial health disparities, Sarah Gehlert, a professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and director of the university's Center for Interdisciplinary Health Disparities Research, writes in a Chicago Sun-Times opinion piece.
According to Gehlert, "researchers are unable to study those differences completely because distrust limits people's interest in becoming involved in important medical research, such as clinical trials." Gehlert and colleagues in 2003 asked black men and women in Chicago to participate in focus groups to help develop an understanding of why black women develop breast cancer earlier than white women and why the disease is more fatal in black women than white women. She writes, "By going out in the community and learning the challenges people face, we have gained important perspectives from the people whose health we are trying to improve."
Researchers conducted 49 small group gatherings with more than 500 men and women. Participants also were invited to a breast cancer summit, where researchers and participants worked together on an action plan, including a DVD on teen health that is being shown in schools, churches and on cable television.
Gehlert concludes that there is "still much more to be done," adding, "Together we can make changes" (Gehlert, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/26).