The mission of ARCHD is to advance the science of minority health and health disparities by conducting transdisciplinary, multi-level research that reduces chronic disease risk factors for which there are significant health disparities among socially disadvantaged communities with a goal of improving health and quality of life and ultimately eliminating health disparities and provide research opportunities and support for postdoctoral fellows, junior faculty, and other investigators.
The overall theme of the ARCHD is to develop research to improve access to quality prevention and health care programs for racial and ethnic minorities with a goal of reducing health disparities. The Center focuses on chronic disease disparities with an emphasis on cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, obesity, tobacco usage, infectious diseases (HIV), and cancer. Arkansas consistently ranks among the worst nationally in health indicators, particularly for CVD and cancer morbidity and mortality. Among its growing racial and ethnic population groups, the Latino population continues to grow and the state has the largest Marshallese community outside of the Marshall Islands, in addition to a substantial African-American population. To address health disparities, strong collaborations have been forged among the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Public Health (COPH), the Arkansas Department of Health, the Arkansas Minority Health Commission, Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), and the University of Alabama (UAB) Center for Health Promotion (CHP). The Center provides an infrastructure to strengthen these efforts and to develop and implement research to reduce disparities in the state’s minority populations.
Arkansas Center for Health Improvement
Arkansas Centers for Health Improvement is a nonpartisan independent health policy center dedicated to improving the health of Arkansans. It is jointly supported by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. ACHI was formed in 1998 as an innovative solution to the health crisis faced by Arkansas by the poor health of the population, the very high numbers of uninsured, the lack of access to quality health care, and the significant racial health disparities found in the state. Working with public-and private-sector partners, ACHI is a catalyst for improving the health of Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy, and collaborative program development. Since its inception, ACHI has become a trusted health policy leader, receiving both state and national recognition for its efforts to continue debate, dialogue, and development of strategies that advance the health and productivity of Arkansas residents. Governance is provided by an independent self-perpetuating 21-member Health Policy Board which identifies and establishes strategic priorities, provides direction and guidance, and serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas. Joe Thompson, MD, MPH, is the Director of ACHI. Dr. James Raczynski serves as a permanent ex officio member of the Board, allowing him to have a voice in advocating for initiatives to address health disparities. The Health Policy Board determines ACHIs involvement in and position on specific policy issues.
Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)
Arkansas has only one public health agency, the DOH, with a central, state office, located less than two blocks from the COPH, and at least one local health unit in each of the state’s 75 counties. Leadership in the DOH were instrumental in advocating for creation of the COPH, since they foresaw the COPH as being critical for improving the health of Arkansans. With the creation of the COPH, this vision has progressed, and a number of key collaborations continue to develop, including shared positions, cross-training of students and employees, and collaborative programs.
Arkansas Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
Arkansas Minority Health Commission (AMHC)
The Arkansas General Assembly created the Arkansas Minority Health Commission in 1991 to address racial and ethnic health disparities. The Mission of the Minority Health Commission is to assure all minority Arkansans access to health care that is equal to the care provided to other citizens of the state, to provide health education, and to address, treat, and prevent diseases and conditions that are prevalent among minority populations.
UAB Center for Health Promotion (CHP)
The CHP was created at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) with funding provided by the CDC as part of their Prevention Research Centers (PRC) program. With a focus on community-based participatory programs to address racial and ethnic health disparities, the CHP developed into a center encompassing more than 150 faculty from 10 of the 12 UAB schools, other academic institutions including the state’s HBCUs, the Alabama Department of Public Health, and community partners.
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)
Center for the Study of Tobacco (CST)
Tobacco use is the most prevalent preventable risk factor for morbidity and mortality in Arkansas as it is throughout the nation. Pebbles Fagan, Ph.D. is the Director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco. While much has been accomplished in recent years, new approaches are needed to lower smoking prevalence by preventing initiation of tobacco use and promoting cessation among high-risk age, gender, income, and ethnic groups. The vision of the CST is to create a vibrant state where the costs of tobacco use and exposure are no longer a burden to Arkansans. The mission of the CST is to engage multiple disciplines in conducting collaborative and innovative research designed to inform public health policies and enhance interventions to reduce tobacco use of any kind. The CST serves as a focal point for research, training, and translational research in Arkansas where there are unique opportunities to build synergy and address tobacco use. The CST has four strategic priorities which are infrastructure development and sustainability; integration and innovation in research; teaching, training, and mentoring future leaders; and translational and dissemination.
Center for the Study of Obesity
Michael Thomsen, Ph.D. is the director of the Center for the Study of Obesity that houses the Governor Sidney S. McMath Professorship in Obesity Prevention. Obesity is a disease that afflicts more than a third of Arkansans and is caused by a multitude of factors.
Considered a chronic disease, it also poses a risk for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The Center and McMath professorship focus on prevention and control of obesity; work to develop obesity prevention curriculum; and serve as a public health resource and advocate for the state, governor and legislature.
Office of Community Based Public Health (OCBPH)
Mary Kathryn “Kate” Stewart, M.D., MPH, directs the Office of Community Based Public Health (OCBPH), which reports directly to the Dean. This office works to develop and maintain close partnerships with selected communities which serve as model programs of community-based participatory public health programs. The OCBPH provides resources for COPH faculty, students and staff on CBPH theories and methods; assists in the development of new community-based educational, service, and research programs; and supports development and implementation of community-based participatory research grant projects.
Center for Diversity Affairs (CDA)
The Center for Diversity Affairs (CDA), led by Dr. Billy Thomas, has the overall mission of developing a more competitive applicant pool of disadvantaged students that will gain entrance to and matriculate through each of the UAMS colleges, resulting in a more diverse health and health care workforce. The CDA has partnerships with multiple community-based organizations and schools, including Black Community Developers; Henderson Health Sciences Magnet Middle School and Central High School; Pulaski Technical College (A 2-year college), Philander Smith College (local HBCU), the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (local HBCU); and the UAMS Office of Regional Programs. The CDA is also shepherding development of a coordinated plan to stimulate changes in the institutional culture of UAMS related to diversity, culture competency, and understanding of racial and ethnic health disparities.
Translational Research Institute (TRI)
The Translational Research Institute (TRI) was established at UAMS in 2009 with funding from the NIH through competition for a Center for Translational Science Award (CTSA). The Center’s overarching goal is to transform the pace, effectiveness, and quality of translational research among UAMS and its partners, resulting in better health for all Arkansans. The TRI includes scientists from all UAMS colleges and disciplines, with representatives from all CCTR external partners and the statewide community. A number of ARCHD faculty actively participate in the TRI, including: Dr. Mary “Kate” Stewart, ARCHD Director for the Community Engagement and Dissemination Core (CEDC). Dr. Stewart also serves as the Associate Director for the TRI Community Engagement Core.
Arkansas Prevention Research Center (ARPRC)
The Arkansas Prevention Research Center (ARPRC), funded by CDC since September 30, 2009, developed on the community-based orientation established from the very beginnings of the COPH and further developed in the ensuing 10 years. The college’s strong community-based orientation led to strong community partnerships and active participation of community partners in COPH strategic planning, research, education/training and service programs, as well as in the preparation of the ARPRC application, reflected by community partner leadership at all levels of the center. In its current funding, the ARPRC is structured as a consortium between three entities (COPH, Arkansas Department of Health, Community Partners) with the mission to develop research and educational programs to enhance public health practice in order to reduce risks for chronic diseases among those who bear the greatest risk in the state, Arkansas’ racial and ethnic minorities, and a goal of eliminating chronic disease health disparities.