Sunday, August 8, 2010

Reducing Health Disparities

NIH is working with a multidisciplinary network of experts who will explore new approaches to understanding health disparities or differences in the burden of disease among population groups. Using state-of-the-science conceptual and computational models, the network’s goal is to identify important areas where interventions or policy changes might have the greatest impact in eliminating health disparities. The computational models will function as computer-simulated laboratories to look at the causes of health disparities as well as their solutions.

The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), part of NIH, is contracting with the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health at Ann Arbor to establish the “Network on Inequality, Complexity, and Health” (NICH). Comprised of scientists with expertise across disciplines, NICH will be the first network to apply systems science approaches to the study of health inequities.

Systems science methods enable investigators to examine the dynamic interrelationships of variables at multiple levels of analysis simultaneously. They also enable the researchers to study the impact on the behavior of the system as a whole over time. For, example, factors such as access to healthcare, neighborhood environment, educational opportunities, physiology and genetics, all may interact over the course of a person’s life to influence risk for diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Led by Chair and Principal Investigator, George A. Kaplan, Ph.D., at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health, NICH’s primary goal is to catalyze groundbreaking research on health disparities and population health using systems science methods. NICH will foster areas of health disparities research that is receptive to using a systems science approach.