Department of Community Health & Prevention:
The mission of the Department of Community Health and Prevention (CHP) is to promote the health of communities through education, research, service, and advocacy with a focus on the societal conditions required for people to be healthy. Central to disparity reduction initiatives are long-term partnerships with communities and organizations in the context of respect for community values, strengths, and assets. Below describes the health disparity-related work of CHP faculty.
Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health:
Racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care are well documented in the United States. Minority communities fare far worse than their white counterparts across a range of health indicators—such as life expectancy, infant mortality, prevalence of chronic diseases, self-rated health status, insurance coverage, and many others.1 Systemic discrimination is a major driver of these disparities as are individual-level issues surrounding culture, language, and trust. As the nation continues to grow increasingly diverse, these disparities are likely to widen if left unaddressed.
REPRESENT- The Black Heterosexual Men’s Health Study: Under the leadership of Associate Professor Lisa Bowleg, PhD, REPRESENT is a multi-phase NIH-funded study on HIV/AIDS among heterosexual African American males. The study examines how social factors—such as poverty, racial discrimination, and incarceration—shape Black men’s gender role norms (i.e., expectations about what it means to be Black men), sexual scripts (i.e., beliefs about what should happen in sexual situations), and sexual risk behaviors with women.
Professor Lisa Ulmer, MSW, ScD has experience designing and testing preventive interventions in underserved populations, including early childhood interventions, school-based interventions, environmental interventions to prevent youth access to tobacco, and interventions to prevent heart disease, stroke and cancer. She is currently the Principal Investigator of three statewide chronic disease prevention evaluations, investigating the impact of interventions designed to transform public systems of care towards prevention, with specific research activities investigating health disparity reduction: the Pennsylvania Cancer Education Network evaluation, the Pennsylvania Colorectal Cancer Control Program evaluation, and the Pennsylvania WISEWOMAN evaluation. Dr. Ulmer is also the Principal Investigator of the Pennsylvania Osteoporosis, Physical Activity, Nutrition and Cardiovascular Disease (OPANAC) evaluation methods grant, developing a participatory evaluation system for statewide projects using a socio-ecological approach to disease prevention through modifications in the built environment and interventions within community, healthcare system, school and worksite settings. The system includes methods for measuring disparity reduction following implementation of environmental prevention strategies.
Associate Professor Nancy Epstein, MPH, MAHL has worked extensively with community-based projects and policy initiatives that address health care disparities related to access to care. She has developed and implemented model state health and social services programs. Her current area of focus is forging partnerships between faith-based and public health communities.
Assistant Professor Michael Yudell, PhD, MPH seeks to document historically stigmatized populations, the challenges they face in public health and medicine, and how this history impacts contemporary health challenges. He is currently completing the book Making Race: Biology and the Evolution of the Race Concept in 20th Century American Thought.
Reducing Disparities in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Health:
Like other groups that experience discrimination and marginalization in the United States, LGBT communities often have poorer health status/outcomes than heterosexuals. While inequities in basic civil liberties contribute to this disparity, cultural barriers and a lack of understanding about the health behaviors of these communities inhibit the success of intervention and prevention strategies.
GayData.org: This website is a no-cost, open-access clearinghouse for the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data and measures. This site also provides knowledgeable analysis, commentary, and expert "how to" information on gathering such data effectively in scientific surveys, questionnaires and studies.
Reducing Disparities in Maternal and Child Health:
As reflected by Health People 2010 and 2020 objectives, maternal and child health is a top priority for ensuring a healthy and productive population. Reducing disparities in pre/post-natal care is essential to achieving this goal. Babies born to African American mothers are twice as likely to have low birth weights while mothers who have not finished high school are three times more likely not to receive prenatal care in the first three months of pregnancy.
Maternal and Child Health Working Group: MCHWG is a multidisciplinary group of academics, clinicians, and policy makers who strive to improve the health of women and children through education and research. MCHWG activities include hosting educational forums for children and faculty, evaluating community-based interventions in maternal and child health, and informing maternal and child health policies at state, local, and federal levels.
Professor Nathalie Bartle, EdD conducts research in the areas of child and adolescent health and has evaluated programs aimed at reducing infant mortality in Philadelphia. Her book, Venus in Blue Jeans: Why Mothers and Daughters Need to Talk About Sex (1998), has received national and international attention.
Assistant Professor Renee M. Turchi, MD, MPH conducts research and clinical work that focuses on children and youth with special health care needs. Dr. Turchi is Director of the Pennsylvania Medical Home Program, a statewide quality improvement initiative for pediatric practices across Pennsylvania and is Medical Director of Special Programs at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children
1. Smedley, B, Stith, A., Nelson, A. (eds). (2001). Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. Institute of Medicine Washington, DC, 2001.