Health Equity Working Group

Health Equity Working Group Director Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards facilitates conversation on "Teens, Sexual Health, and Depression" during the Cook Center's 2016 Young Scholars Summer Research Institute.

The Health Equity Working Group uses a holistic approach to understanding and achieving health equity. Investigating the sociocultural, economic and structural indicators of health are warranted in both risk assessment and risk prevention efforts to eliminate racial/ethnic and gender disparities in health. The Health Equity Working Group uses an interdisciplinary approach to move beyond the acknowledgement of disparities, in to understanding the root causes of both positive and negative health outcomes. We use this understanding to inform practitioners, researchers and community health organizers on strength-based approaches to health. Our working group includes the broad intersections of race, gender, wealth and health.

Featured Projects

Race, Religion & Health

Although the occurrence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is similar between white and Black Americans, the latter population is thirty percent more likely to die from the disease. Greater risk factors, repeated hospitalizations and related income disruptions add to the toll that CVD takes on African Americans’ overall quality of life. We believe that examining appropriate sociocultural context is necessary to provide practice-ready solutions on the manifestations, root causes and potential strategies for eliminating African American’s heightened CVD risks. Considering that African Americans report the highest level of religiosity than any other racial/ethnic group in the Unites States, religion and spirituality is a strong indicator for prevention and intervention efforts. Our current project, Race, Religion & Health, examines the relationship between religion and spirituality and CVD risk factors (diabetes, obesity, depression and hypertension) in African Americans. 

Sexual Health Disparities

In 2011, both the National Prevention Strategy and Healthy People 2020 recognized “reproductive and sexual health” as a key area for improving the lives of Americans. This increasing national emphasis on sexual health provides an important opportunity to refocus the efforts of U.S. health-care professionals. Sexually transmitted diseases are a particular problem for minorities, women, and adolescents. In 2015, African Americans accounted for 45% of new HIV diagnoses. The chlamydia rate was 5.4 times higher among Black women compared to white women. The gonorrhea rate was 9.6 times higher among Blacks versus whites. To be effective in reducing sexual health disparities, reproductive and sexual health activities should involve both health-care providers (physicians, nurses, and related clinical providers). We examine how medical providers discuss sexual health with their patients and provide recommendations on how they can provide holistic sexual health care. 

Cultural Determinants of Health

We examine how people can have healthy outcomes despite racial and community-based adversities. Identifying healthy coping strategies, particularly those that need to be understood from a cultural context is key to achieving health equity. This research area focuses on healthy emotional and behavioral coping in the face of racial and financial stressors.

Working Group Members
  • Keisha Bentley-Edwards, PhD, Director
  • Loneke T. Blackman Carr, Postdoctoral Associate
  • Salimah El-Amin, PhD
  • Elaine Hart-Brothers, MD
  • Paul Robbins, PhD, Postdoctoral Associate
  • Gabriela Sandoval, PhD
  • Imari Smith, Graduate Research Assistant

Participants of the Young Scholars Summer Research Institute respond to the presentation "Teens, Sexual Health, and Depression" during 2016 the institute.