UConn Health Disparities Institute

Follow-Up

Research doesn’t stop when we report it. Here are updates on past UConn Health Journal stories:


Hearing Loss

UConn Health otolaryngologist Dr. Kourosh Parham and his colleagues are collaborating with French pharmaceutical company Sensorion to develop a blood test that can warn patients and their doctors of early damage to the inner ear, before hearing loss is noticeable. Parham and his colleagues report in Hearing Research that levels of prestin, a protein found only in cells in the inner ear, rise sharply when those cells are damaged and start to die. Currently, hearing loss can only be identified after it has occurred.

Physician-scientist Dr. Kourosh Parham looks in patients ear

Fall 2016, “Detecting Vertigo, Hearing Loss via Blood Tests”


Health Disparities

Men and boys of color in Connecticut are less likely to have health insurance, more likely to be victims of violence, and more likely to die early from preventable diseases than their non-Hispanic white counterparts, UConn’s Health Disparities Institute reports in its inaugural Connecticut Report Card on Health Equity Among Men and Boys of Color. The report identifies social experiences that can negatively impact health in the population, as well as actions the state can take to address the disparities. Read more at UConn Today.

young black father looks over his ailing son on a hospital

Summer 2018, “Bridging the Health Care Gap”

Bridging the Health Care Gap

Q&A with Wizdom Powell, director of the UConn Health Disparities Institute

Q

What are your top priorities for the Health Disparities Institute (HDI) at UConn Health as you begin your second year as director?

During my first nine months, HDI underwent an internal, strategic refocusing process. This process involved conducting an organizational 360-degree assessment and reviewing state-level data on health disparities outcomes and populations. It resulted in the identification of four complementary strategic focus areas: health systems change, utilization, and finance; behavioral health; chronic disease prevention and control; and neighborhoods, housing, and health.

HDI is committed to advancing health equity and works explicitly to connect, support, and serve populations at greatest risk for poor health and social outcomes. These goals are accomplished by generating rigorous evidence for action, building multisector coalitions, translating data for policy impact, and accelerating community-sourced innovations. We apply an explicit racial equity lens to our work. We value social justice, youth engagement, and the power of art to amplify community voice and disrupt single stories about the truly underserved.


Q

What initiatives has HDI put in place or advanced in the past year, and how are they helping people?

Boys and men of color (BMoC) in our nation are uniquely underserved across a number of health indicators. Currently, HDI is developing several initiatives designed to address social determinants of health, well-being, and health equity among BMoC. Recognizing this critical gap, the HDI has established a multisector alliance composed of private, public, academic, and community leaders to provide high-level strategic guidance and accelerate systems change for BMoC in Connecticut. HDI recently launched a series of overlapping research, policy translation, and programmatic initiatives focused on advancing health equity for boys and men of color in the state.


Q

What can physicians do to better serve men and boys?

I think it is important for health care providers to be aware of the gendered help-seeking barriers men and boys experience. Such barriers include shared cultural norms and values that discourage men from disclosing vulnerability and distress. These norms may lead some men to avoid health care altogether or “watch and wait” even when health symptoms are present. It is important for health care providers to maximize appointments with men and boys, for example, by screening for behavioral health symptoms during a primary care visit.


Q

Recently, public figures like Jay-Z and NBA star Kevin Love have spoken out about mental health struggles and the stigma surrounding them. Are we on the verge of a sea change? What more needs to be done on a cultural and policy level?

It is always encouraging when public figures leverage their influence to promote mental health awareness. They have a bigger platform than scientists and far fewer structural constraints on their media engagement. In my more than a decade in the men’s health space, I have witnessed ebbs and flows in the scientific and public discourse about these issues. We are definitely in a flow period. To achieve a sea change, we also need to change systems, culture, and policy.

We certainly need mental health parity in the way we pay for services. A lot could be accomplished by the systemwide integration of behavioral and primary care services. We would also benefit tremendously from changing norms. Men and boys (and the women and girls who love them) would be healthier if they had fewer social sanctions around displaying emotional vulnerability. We encourage men and boys to be strong, stoic, and silent. If we are going to have a real sea change, those norms have to be disrupted.

Follow-Up – Spring 2018

Research doesn’t stop when we report it. Here are updates on past UConn Health Journal stories:


Longevity Indicators

A new large-scale international study published in the journal Aging has expanded the number of genetic markers known to be associated with exceptional longevity from 8 to 25. Researchers at UConn, the University of Exeter, University of Wisconsin, and University of Iowa studied 389,166 volunteers who took part in U.K. Biobank, identifying genes that could one day be targeted to help prolong human life.

Fall 2016, Lab Notes, “Parents Living Longer Is Good News for Offspring, Study Says”


Health Disparities Institute

Wizdom Powell, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, is the new director of the Health Disparities Institute at UConn Health. Powell’s focus in the eradication of health inequities is improving men’s mental health awareness, resources, and services. As chair of the American Psychological Association’s Working Group on Health Disparities in Boys and Men, Powell testified Jan. 30 to the Congressional Briefing on Men’s Mental Health in Washington, D.C., and proposed policy solutions to create a more supportive social climate for men suffering from depression.

WIzdom Powell

Summer 2016, “Fighting for Equity”

Follow-Up – Summer 2017

Research doesn’t stop when we report it. Here are updates on past UConn Health Journal stories:


Ovarian Cancer Vaccine

UConn Health is recruiting patients for the world’s first personalized genomics-driven ovarian cancer vaccine clinical trial. The FDA-approved trial will test the experimental vaccine Oncoimmune, which was invented by Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Dr. Pramod Srivastava. The vaccine aims to boost the immune response of patients with ovarian cancer to prevent relapse. To learn more, call Quratulain Ali at 860.679.7648.

An iPad displaying 'How much will Robert pay? You'r answer is probably incorrect.' artfully

Spring 2016, “Individualized”


Dr. Cato T. Laurencin

A team led by Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, who in 2016 received a number of prestigious honors including a National Medal of Technology and Innovation, has found a way to regenerate rotator cuff tendons after they’re torn using stem cells and a “nano-mesh” material. Laurencin’s team has also joined the New Hampshire–based Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute to speed the development of human limb growth.

Dr. Cato Laurencin

Spring 2016, “Honors Pour In for Leading UConn Surgeon-Scientist”


Health Disparities Institute

A recent survey conducted by UConn’s Health Disparities Institute found that patients across the state have poor health insurance literacy. The results of a poll of 516 adult Connecticut residents enrolled in a qualified health plan through Access Health CT showed that the surveyed population struggled to understand how to use their benefits as well as understand basic health insurance terminology, including “premium,” “deductible,” and “co-pay.”

illustration of fingerprints overlayed on top of a woman's ovaries

Summer 2016, “Fighting for Equity”