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Duke aims to solve racial and ethnic health care disparities with new center

Duke is launching a center that will aim to decrease health care disparities among racial and ethnic minorities. 

Duke Center for REsearch to AdvanCe Healthcare Equity, or REACH Equity, will be dedicated to researching and reducing health care disparities in the United States.

“We are trying to make sure every patient who walks through our doors gets the same high-quality care, and when they exit our doors that they are all going to have the same outcomes,” said Leigh Ann Simmons, a professor in Duke University School of Nursing.

REACH Equity is led by Dr. Kimberly Johnson, a professor of medicine at Duke University.

It is funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities through a grant given to 12 centers that will receive funding for the next five years.

“REACH Equity will do more than just research,” Johnson said “It is like other typical centers of excellence and other kinds of research areas. So it has a number of cores which will administer activities related to our themes and as part of the grant we submitted three research projects that we will conduct as part of the work of the center over the next five years.”

REACH Equity will have four cores: administration, education and training on research, investigation and community engagement.

The administrative core will make sure all of the activities are run appropriately, the investigation core will be focused on research and will administer a two-year career development award for new researchers and the community engagement core will develop partnerships with the community. 

REACH Equity also will provide several trainings co-led by Simmons as part of a program in the research education and training core in which undergraduate, graduate, medical students and others can be trained to be mindful of health care disparities and how the system works to sometimes create those disparities.

The three research projects REACH equity will conduct as part of the grant are studies on implicit bias training intervention, communication coaching intervention for cardiology providers and the production of an app that will allow family members to report needs to their health care providers.

Johnson said REACH Equity would take on more research projects in the future.

Simmons said there is a large focus on the clinical encounter that is distinct from other centers focused on health care disparities in the United States. She said the center will address provider and patient communication, and make sure the encounter is something patients are actively participating in.

“We are just getting started,” Johnson said. “The overall theme of our center is to develop and test interventions that reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health by improving the quality of patients in our care and in the clinical encounter.”


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