Racial and Ethnic Disparities

Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

The Office of Community-Based Public Health has been involved in a number of activities focused on addressing racial and ethnic health disparities. The OCBPH has organized and partnered to obtain funding to bring trainers from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond to Arkansas to conduct Undoing Racism workshops, which have been made available to the entire campus, formal community partner organizations, and other institutions (including the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and the Arkansas Division of Health). Out of these workshops has grown a critical mass of faculty, students, staff, and community partners with a common language for discussing concerns about the role racism plays in creating and maintaining racial and ethnic health disparities and in building a critical mass of people focused on change. One of the offshoots of this work is the development of the campus-wide Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Taskforce which focuses on the role UAMS can play in addressing health disparities.

UAMS Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Taskforce
This racially and ethnically diverse group of UAMS physicians, administrators, faculty, and staff organized in early 2005 to spearhead development of a fully coordinated, institution-wide strategy to reduce health and health care disparities, integrating the latest science and best practices. In 2006, the UAMS chancellor recognized the taskforce as a campus-wide advisory body and appointed additional members to round out representation from all colleges. The task force focuses on ways to reduce racial and ethnic disparities through three areas relevant to the work of UAMS: 1) quality of care: 2) education; and 3) workforce diversity. The task force assisted with planning for the campus-wide retreat on health disparities conducted as part of the Engaged Institutions Initiative (described below). Members of the task force are currently analyzing data from a campus wide survey of students about their impressions of whether the climate at UAMS promotes diversity, cultural competency, and an understanding of health disparity

Engaged Institutions Initiative.
In 2005, the OCBPH headed up an effort in which the COPH and each of the primary COPH community partners completed a self-assessment on community engagement and racial and ethnic health disparities. The self-assessment findings supported planning discussions for an application for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation-sponsored Engaged Institutions Initiative of Community-Campus Partnerships for Health ( This initiative was developed by Kellogg because of their recognition that eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities will require collaborative solutions that bring communities and institutions together. The College was selected through a competitive grant review process as one of 12 schools and programs nationally to participate.

Through this initiative, the COPH received consultation from national experts and sponsored two retreats. The first round of consultations took place on Sept. 21-22, 2006 with visits from public health experts Larry Green and Ella-Moton Greene who conducted forums, workshops, and a College-wide retreat focused on advancing understanding about and participation in community-based participatory research (CBPR) and community-based public health (CBPH).

The second set of consultants, Tom LaVeist and Vickie Ybarra, visited UAMS in May 2007 as a part of this initiative. During their visit, the COPH held a retreat in partnership with the UAMS Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Task Force (REHDTF) to examine strategies for reducing racial and ethnic health disparities. Dr. LaVeist and Ms. Ybarra served as speakers for the retreat and expert consultants for the task force. In addition, Ms. Ybarra conducted a workshop with the COPH’s community partners and Dr. LaVeist held a town hall meeting at Philander Smith College. The retreat was attended by faculty, staff, and several campus deans, as well as the Chancellor and members of the senior administration. This retreat led to several positive developments, including support from two of the Deans (COPH and College of Health Related Professions) for a part-time research assistant to support the work of the REHDTF, including fielding a student survey on campus climate related to diversity (described below). (Click Here) for a copy of the Summary Report detailing retreat and pre-retreat activities and consultant presentations.

Arkansas Health Disparities Service-Learning Collaborative.
The self-assessment and findings from the Engaged Institutions Initiative retreats sparked discussion of ways to more fully involve students with communities. These evolved into planning discussions for the Arkansas Health Disparities Service Learning Initiative, funded from March 2007 through March 2010 by the Corporation for National Community Service through Campus Community Partnerships for Health, through which the COPH established specific service-learning (preceptorship) opportunities and a health disparities service learning course (see below). The overall goal of this initiative is to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities by engaging public health and other health professions students and faculty in tailored service learning partnerships with community-based organizations, state and local agencies, policymakers, and others.

Health Disparities Service Learning Course Information

Course number: PBHL 5843

Course name: Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: Theory, Experience and Elimination

Course Instructors: Kate Stewart, Creshelle Nash and David Briscoe

Course Description This elective course explores racial and ethnic health disparities in the United States. Students examine the literature on health and health care disparities and issues of measurement; the historical and social structural determinants pertinent to the etiology of disparities; the role of genomics; and policy and programmatic strategies for reducing disparities. This course uses traditional approaches to learning (such as didactic lectures, assigned readings, analysis, and discussion) combined with personal and group experiential learning. Students are required to participate in service learning activities which include preparation, reflection and practice components. Therefore students will spend time both in class with instructors and in the community with community based partners.