The Center for Research on Minority Health (CRMH) is transforming into the Dorothy I. Height Center for Health Equity & Evaluation Research (CHEER). It has been over 25 years since the statement was made, that “Health in minority communities can not be addressed as a single issue. That it has to be addressed in a holistic manner.” Several years later it was stated that “Addressing health alone will not solve the health disparities gap.”
Since the initial planning of the Biennial Symposium Series on Minorities & Cancer in 1985, the happening has continued to morph from the blending of the idea of “science that benefits community.” Not that other science that does not focus on community is bad, but just that if we are going to make progress in addressing the health disparities gap, we have to get closer to impacting the community, “building the community from the inside out.” These interactions have led to the 25th Anniversary of the Biennial Symposium Series now referred to as the Biennial Symposium Series on Minorities, the Medically Underserved & Health Equity; slowly morphing over the 25-plus years to fit the statements above. It also more closely relates to the past decade of training Health Scholars from a variety of backgrounds together to look at the issue in a “biopsychosocial manner” rather than in the biomedical model.
Recently a number of the Health Scholars came together to produce a paper, putting in print what the CRMH has being doing in training its scholar and we hope CHEER will take to the next level in making the City of Houston “a population based laboratory.” Keeping in mind that if one attempts to address a disparity issue as just a single problem of one disease, without taking into account other factors, including those not normally related to health, you have already failed to address the problem at the beginning and the outcome has already been predestined. Almost 25 years to the date of the above statement, the American Medical Association published an article stating that we have made very little to no progress in addressing the health disparities gap and the health care gap. To me it came as no surprise. For I had already stated years earlier that the outcome of the efforts and the current approach used would be like placing a band-aid on a heart attack. It felt good to the persons addressing the issue, but to the community facing the issue, a published paper(s) or another grant(s) funded did nothing to establish long term solutions to the problem.
It has taken us more that a decade to get to this point in time, but looking back on what we have accomplished we still are not satisfied. On the other hand, given the joint agreement between the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Houston, and our ongoing collaborations with the Memorial Herman Health Care System, CHEER is well positioned to go to the next level.
Yes, we have published papers, but more importantly, I believe that we have laid the foundation for change. That foundation comes from not only the trainees we have produced and the science we have produced, solidifying our biopsychosocial approach, but the lives we have changed. We believe that our greatest impact has been on the future of science and who will play a prominent role in addressing critical issues related to the health of our communities.
Almost a decade ago we decided to invest as much in our educational program as we did in our research programs. We believe that the end result has resulted in a significant impact on the field of health disparities through our community partnerships and educational programs. For instance, our investment in the SCIENCE Project pilot elementary school at Burton Elementary in the Fort Bend Independent School District has resulted in their students going from 19% passing the Science TAKS, to 81% this year with 36% being commended and the school going from unacceptable to recognized. Our pilot school elementary school in HISD this year was rated as exemplary, the highest rating a school can get. In fact, this has attracted the attention of Major League Baseball, which has assigned one of their consultants to look at developing our efforts as a math & science model educational program for elementary schools.
We could probably list an array of other items, but to us this will be our greatest legacy, not only increasing the pool of potential scientists and health care individuals, but a science educated populous.