March 7, 2008

UCLA launches network to study health care disparities affecting minorities

Group includes distinguished faculty from universities across the nation

By Enrique Rivero

The UCLA Department of Family Medicine, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has launched the Network for Multicultural Research on Health and Healthcare, a group that will study health care disparities affecting minorities with chronic diseases.

The network will also mentor and develop a new generation of researchers with an expertise in health care disparities.

The new group — to be directed by Dr. Michael Rodríguez, associate professor of family medicine, and William Vega, professor of family medicine, both of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA — will draw on the talents of distinguished faculty from several national universities.

“Research has shown us that disparities in health care do exist for certain racial and ethnic groups in the United States,” Rodríguez said. “As the population of the United States becomes more and more diverse, it is increasingly important for us to understand the impact of these disparities and devise methods to reduce and eliminate them.”

The network’s primary aims are to:

· Understand how social, ethnic, linguistic and economic factors affect the way health care providers serve minority populations.

· Study how personal, cultural and social factors promote or impede adequate health care and disease management.

· Examine health care system barriers to quality care for chronic conditions.

· Explore how various factors — including sources of health information, diet and exercise, self-management of chronic conditions, and levels of health literacy among patients and their families — influence minorities’ health status.

The network’s senior investigators are Dr. José J. Escarce, Dr. Carol Mangione, Dr. Leo S. Morales and Ninez Ponce of UCLA; Margarita Alegría of Harvard University; Dr. Bonnie Duran of the University of Washington; Kyriakos Markides of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; Dr. Eliseo Pérez-Stable of the University of California, San Francisco; and Roberto Suro of the University of Southern California.

The project will also support five Healthcare Quality Scholars each year, who will address health issues affecting people from underserved groups, with a primary focus on diabetes and obesity, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illnesses, depression, and cancer. This work will aid in the development of successful, independent scientists and increase the pipeline of researchers addressing quality of care for the underserved.

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