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Purdue Establishes Center for Health Disparities

Center for Poverty and Health Disparities will focus on community-based partnerships

A new center at Purdue University will focus on research and outreach projects that seek to reduce health disparities in Indiana, United States and around the world.

The Center for Poverty and Health Disparities, which is affiliated with the College of Liberal Arts, will be part of the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering at Discovery Park. The new center will collaborate with the Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana Minority Health Coalition, Northwest Indiana Health Disparities Initiative and other community groups with the goal of understanding health disparities and developing community-based partnerships in addressing them.

"The center's goal will be to examine health-care disparities in Indiana, the United States and globally by connecting research projects to specific policies and interventions," said Mohan J. Dutta, director of the center, professor of communication, and associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Liberal Arts. "One of our first projects is aimed at reducing the incidence of heart disease in the high-risk African-American population, and we are collaborating with communities and health-care groups in Gary and Indianapolis to develop culturally-centered health information capacities driven by comparative effectiveness research."

The study, led by Dutta, is focused on understanding the health disparities experienced by African-Americans and addressing the problem by emphasizing a community-driven, culture-centered approach to the development and dissemination of research findings for different prevention and treatment options for heart disease. Another study, led by professor Cleveland Shields, will focus on patient and physician communication related to clinical decisions, testing, prescribing and patient outcomes. Shields is an associate professor in child development and family studies.

Another project based at the center is the Voices of Hunger in Tippecanoe County. This project, a partnership between Dutta's communication students and Food Finders Food Bank, focuses on better understanding the life, challenges and needs of people who use the food bank. The project's goal - through the use of focus groups, interviews and photography - is to use this information to better help people who use this resource.

The center also will focus on examining health-care delivery processes, the development of prevention services, the development of community-academic partnerships in addressing health-care disparities and enhancing access to quality health resources among underserved communities and populations.

"The Center for Poverty and Health Disparities complements the mission at Regenstrief because it helps affirm an interdisciplinary approach in addressing the state, nation and world's health-care challenges," said Steve Witz, director of the Regenstrief Center. "Better understanding the role that poverty, culture and disparities play is crucial to improving health-care systems."

The center is supported by projects funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, National Institutes of Health and the Regenstrief Center.

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