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INTERVENTIONS TO ENHANCE

HEALTH EQUITY,

WELLBEING, 

& PUBLIC HEALTH. 

OUR RESEARCH

Our research aims to develop interventions to enhance health equity, wellbeing, and public health, by offering both direct care and state-of-the-art digital solutions to the underserved. 

An abundance of data has accumulated to demonstrate a multitude of health disparities associated with being from a minority or impoverished background and how these disparities are driven by a variety of social, environmental, and system-level factors, collectively known as social determinants of health. 

Medicine and behavioral health sciences are entering a new era of precision medicine, defined as research and practice designed to optimize therapeutic benefits of treatment for particular groups of patients, or even unique individuals. Behavioral psychology interventions delivered through smartphones are making it possible to tailor interventions to sub-groups and individuals to maximize success, working in tandem with more traditional top-down public policy and public health interventions. In parallel, technological and computer science innovations like machine learning and artificial intelligence are providing the ability to harness smartphone generated data streams to further help tailor interventions for optimal success.

The Center's mission is to advance evidence-based, individualized behavioral interventions to overcome health disparities associated with social determinants of health. Our overarching goal is to design and implement highly effective, culturally appropriate intervention approaches.

COVID-19

& SOCIAL DISPARTIES

With a commitment to health equity and medical excellence, Meharry has been a leader since early on in the COVID-19 crisis.

AREAS OF RESEARCH

NICOTINE & TOBACCO

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. Nearly 40 million U.S. adults still smoke cigarettes, and about 4.7 million middle and high school students use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes. Every day, about 1,600 U.S. youth younger than 18 years smoke their first cigarette. Each year, nearly half a million Americans die prematurely of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Another 16 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Each year, the United States spends nearly $170 billion on medical care to treat smoking-related disease in adults.

VETERANS HEALTH

Those who have served in the military have been shown to be more prone to some specific health issues than those who have not served. For example, those who have served reported being diagnosed with cancer at higher rates than those who had not served. Some of the most commonly reported service-related physical injuries among veterans include musculoskeletal and joint injuries, tinnitus, hearing loss, and traumatic brain injury. Furthermore, military veterans can also be more susceptible to mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As of 2016, around 15 percent of male veterans had been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, compared to 12 percent of males who had not served.

MENTAL HEALTH

Problems with mental health are very common in the United States, with an estimated 50% of all Americans diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. Mental illnesses, such as depression, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the United States for those aged 18-44 years old and adults living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others.

OPIOID USE

Two out of three drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved an opioid. Opioids are substances that work in the nervous system of the body or in specific receptors in the brain to reduce the intensity of pain. Overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids (like fentanyl), have increased almost six times since 1999. Overdoses involving opioids killed nearly 47,000 people in 2018, and 32% of those deaths involved prescription opioids.

PHYSICAL (IN)ACTIVITY

Physical inactivity is already a major global health risk and is prevalent in both industrialized and developing countries, particularly among the urban poor in crowded mega cities. Measures and policies required to promote healthier food consumption patterns and facilitate a physically active life share common grounds and are mutually interactive in determining healthier behaviours. To achieve best results in preventing nutrition-related chronic diseases, strategies and policies should fully recognize the essential role of both diet and physical activity in determining good nutrition and optimal health. 

TREATMENT ENGAGEMENT

Adherence to prescribed medications is associated with improved clinical outcomes for chronic disease management and reduced mortality from chronic conditions. Conversely, nonadherence is associated with higher rates of hospital admissions, suboptimal health outcomes, increased morbidity and mortality, and increased health care costs. In the United States, 3.8 billion prescriptions are written annually. Approximately one in five new prescriptions are never filled, and among those filled, approximately 50% are taken incorrectly, particularly with regard to timing, dosage, frequency, and duration.

NUTRITION

Many Americans’ diets lack adequate sources of good nutrition. Only 4 in 10 children and fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat enough fruit.

Poor nutrition contributes to many costly diseases, including obesity, heart disease, and some cancers.

People who eat a healthy diet live longer and are at lower risk for serious health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. For people with chronic diseases, healthy eating can help manage these conditions and prevent complications.

HIV/AIDS

Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV today. About 14 percent of them (1 in 7) don’t know it and need testing.

​-HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on certain populations, particularly racial and ethnic minorities and gay and bisexual men.
​-Blacks/African Americans accounted for 42% (16,055) of HIV diagnoses and 13% of the population.
-Hispanics/Latinos accounted for 27% (10,255) of HIV diagnoses and 18% of the population.

CHRONIC PAIN

Chronic pain, one of the most common reasons adults seek medical care, has been linked to restrictions in mobility and daily activities dependence on opioids, anxiety and depression, and poor perceived health or reduced quality of life. Population-based estimates of chronic pain among U.S. adults range from 11% to 40%, with considerable population subgroup variation. 

Indicators of socioeconomic status such as education, poverty, and health insurance coverage have been determined to be associated with both general health status and the presence of specific health conditions  as well as with patients’ success in navigating the health care system.

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© 2021 Meharry Medical College// POLICIES

Nashville, TN