The School of Public Health’s Health Equity Work Group (HEWG) was first founded in spring 2005 with the goals of promoting and providing greater visibility to health inequalities research; strengthening collaborative efforts; creating lasting partnerships between faculty and community-based organizations; and ensuring SPH students are well trained to work in a diverse society.
Each year, the HEWG meets to establish specific goals for the coming academic year and formulates subcommittees to accomplish these tasks.
About Health Disparities Research
The field of disparities research in public health broadly encompasses the study of inequities in attaining optimum health or accessing quality health care among social groups within a population.
Overwhelmingly, current research focuses on racial and ethnic disparities, but the theoretical and empirical models used can and have been extended to other types of social disparities such as those involving socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, geographic location, disability, age, and other conditions.
We take this broad view of health disparities:
The University of Minnesota School of Public Health is committed to reducing health disparities through its research, teaching, and community outreach programs. We do so because:
- Health disparities are antithetical to our basic notions about public health. Public health is fundamentally about maximizing the health of populations and eliminating barriers to that goal. Interest in disparities research stems partially from the realization that increasing the health of the population has sometimes either created or widened gaps between social groups. Health disparities research investigates the process through which these gaps are created and sustained, and potential practice and policy solutions for eliminating disparities.
- Closing the gaps between population subgroups in realizing optimum health and receiving quality health care has received recognition at the national level. It is a central goal of Healthy People 2010 (spearheaded by the Department of Health and Human Services) and of the National Institutes of Health’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
- The topic of health disparities has been of special concern in Minnesota. Despite Minnesota’s ranking as one of the nation’s healthiest states, minorities in Minnesota experience shorter life spans, higher rates of infant mortality, higher incidences of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and poorer general health than Whites (Minnesota Department of Health, 2004; SHAPE, 2002). Minnesota is one of two states in the nation to have a legislative initiative with resources targeting the reduction of health disparities.
Health disparities are an important global issue. Health disparities are most evident in developing countries and among a number of immigrant groups (Somalis, Hmong) from developing countries now residing in Minnesota.