Improving quality of life and health outcomes for at-risk populations

Health disparities have always existed, but recent events such as the pandemic have helped to bring them to the forefront. Many factors contribute to these inequities such as genetics, access to care, poor quality of care and more.

The Center for Health Equity and Evaluation Research (CHEER) at Texas A&M University is addressing these inequities. Since 2001, the center has been working to help improve the quality of life and health outcomes across the lifespan among at-risk populations.

The center, which was previously named the Transdisciplinary Center for Health Equity Research, was originally housed in the School of Education and Human Development. It was established as a Texas A&M University System Board of Regent’s approved center and is the only center at Texas A&M that focuses exclusively on health equity.

The center is also committed to training the next generation of health equity scholars and leaders and has a strong focus on student development, offering unique opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in health disparities.

“Health equity has always been important, but I think the pandemic really shed light on how significant it is,” said the center’s director Jamilia Blake, PhD. “The center is focused on leveraging experts who have interest in health equity research to do interdisciplinary projects that work on mitigating risks for various health disparities.

“We look at populations that tend to be at greater risk or susceptible to certain health disparities across their lifespan.”

With the merger of the Health Education faculty from the School of Education and Human Development and programs with the School of Public Health to create the Department of Health Behavior, the center was shifted into the School of Public Health this year and was renamed.

However, the connection between the center and the School of Public Health is not a new one. Researchers from the school have previously been a part of the center and E. Lisako J. McKyer, PhD, MPH, who most recently served as the School of Public Health’s senior associate dean of climate and inclusion, was the director of the center from 2012 to 2015.

“Having this center in the School of Public Health provides a framework and support system and a more diverse network that is focused on health equities,” said Tamika Gilreath, PhD, the center’s associate director. “These issues cut across different disciplines and we have collaborators across many units and departments. We have people in nursing, public health, psychology, and we work to leverage our knowledge jointly to come up with solutions.”

Among the disparities that researchers with the center are working to address are adolescent health; sexual and reproductive health; chronic disease management; alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; health, educational and criminal justice policy; and military/veteran health.

“We’re all working with these populations in different ways,” Blake said. “We have a mechanism to research that and create synergy to hopefully mitigate some of those disparities.”

 

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