WMU speaker considers "health equity"

Feb 19, 2013

The federal government says black babies are up to three times more likely to die than white infants. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say more African-Americans suffer from high blood pressure than whites do. Those and other disparities in health and health care are the subject of the annual Burian Lecture on Wednesday, February 20th, at Western Michigan University.

Brian Gibbs is an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He says the problem involves much more than differences in rates of disease. That’s because minorities disproportionately live in areas with high poverty rates and more pollution as well as lower access to health care services and healthy food.

Professor Brian Gibbs
Credit Brian Gibbs / Johns Hopkins University

Gibbs says differences in a person’s situation can have big effects on the results of health care that is available. He says the first step toward solving the problem is getting more and better data to determine what exactly the challenges are.

The training of physicians, nurses, and other health care workers is also an issue. Gibbs says doctors and others should be trained to be able to deal appropriately with patients from all backgrounds.  

Gibbs’ public presentation Health Inequality: Barriers, Challenges, and Solutions at WMU’s Fetzer Center starts Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and is sponsored by Western’s College of Health and Human Services. Gibbs will also give the keynote address Diversity and Inclusion: Preparing Ourselves to Advance Health Equity at a conference Thursday in Western’s Health and Human Services Building. The conference is from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is also open to the public.