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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / May 2023 / Office of Health Equity Research Hosts Inaugural Strategic Planning Retreat

Office of Health Equity Research Hosts Inaugural Strategic Planning Retreat

In April, the Office of Health Equity Research (OHER) hosted its first Strategic Planning Retreat to align its agenda with previously identified community priorities for research. We were pleased to have David R. Williams, PhD, from Harvard University as our keynote speaker. Williams is one of the world’s leading scholars on racial equity and the creator of the Everyday Discrimination Scale, which is the original and still-recommended scale for measuring perceived racism in society.                                        

More than 75 attendees participated in the virtual retreat, which was led by OHER Founding Director Edith Williams, PhD, MS. Among the attendees were members of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Health Equity Research Task Force, Health Equity Research Core Investigators, and support staff. OHER’s strength lies in its diverse and committed community of collaborators, which is built upon the voluntary membership of over 130 health equity research faculty from across the university. These faculty members represent a variety of disciplines including nursing, environmental medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine, psychiatry, oral health, immunology and rheumatology, pediatrics, and public health.

Leaders from each of these concentration areas introduced their work, the state of their research internally and externally, and potential research directions. There were three brief presentations highlighting potential central resources.

John Cullen, PhD, shared proposed plans for a “Research Bus” to allow teams to bring research beyond the walls of the academic medical center out into the community.

Deepa Premnath, MEd, provided details about OHER's new Youth Advisory Board for Research . The recruitment process is underway with the goal of selecting 15 board members from across the greater Rochester area, ages 14-17, by mid-June.

And Charles White presented preliminary plans for the Training Education and Research Center for Community Connections – a collaborative partnership with the community to address health challenges in a historically marginalized region of the Rochester Focus Area.

Mission “Why does OHER exist?”

To establish the University of Rochester as a national leader in health equity research, specifically focusing on the impact of racism and other societal inequities on health and development and ensure the translation of knowledge into policy and action that have positive effects on community health equity.

Vision “Where do we see OHER going?”

  • Achieve transdisciplinary research collaboration and establish health equity research priorities within collaborative teams.
  • Increase capacity to conduct health equity research and collaborative scholarship.
  • Contribute to solving problems and addressing the root causes of health inequities.
  • Sustain health equity research that integrates community needs and clinical practice.
  • Earn recognition as an institution that authentically engages others and applies academic knowledge in the service of informed policy, action, and tangible health improvements within our growing areas of influence.

One of the most important topics discussed at the event was the OHER mission, vision, and values, which were recently revised based on pre-retreat feedback. The goal was to answer two fundamental questions: “Why does OHER exist?” and “Where do we see OHER going?”

To make the task more focused and manageable, attendees split into breakout rooms for in-depth discussions about OHER’s five research priorities. Each breakout group was then encouraged to generate up to three potential research directions for OHER investigators to pursue. Here’s a summary of what we discussed.

Safe Housing icon1: Creating Safe and Healthy Housing
This group brainstormed ideas to create emergency housing, make home health care visits safer, examine the ethics of housing intervention research, and improve the care offered by VA homes, nursing homes, and prisons. The group agreed that schools, childcare, and workplaces have many environmental quality health issues in common with homes.

Substance Use and Mental Health icon2: Preventing Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders
The second group focused on new ways to research and address substance use and mental health disorders. Participants talked about the impact of familial relationships on children’s mental health, and how health literacy and cultural competence affect community members.

Anti-violence icon3: Preventing Gun Violence
The third group came up with several ideas for increasing awareness and understanding around gun violence, including hosting more gun violence prevention meetings in the community and establishing an incubator team to bring greater focus to the effort.

Recidivism icon4: Preventing Reincarceration
The fourth group had a robust conversation about incarceration and health. One idea that participants supported was to shift the study of incarcerated fathers toward Black men. They also wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what’s happening with opioid and medication use in jails.

Chronic Disease icon5: Preventing and Managing Chronic Illness
The fifth group discussed several research areas to help prevent and manage chronic illness, including lifestyle behavior intervention and studying weight bias from childhood through adulthood to better understand obesity.

Establishing Priorities and Next Steps

To close out the retreat, attendees were asked to prioritize research topics by responding to Mentimeter polls and providing preferences for subsequent meetings to further develop OHER’s research agenda. There are also plans to share strategic planning retreat proceedings with community stakeholders who were involved in the original process of identifying community research priorities. This will help ensure that OHER investigators are responsive to community-identified priorities, as originally intended.

The Strategic Planning Retreat was an important milestone for the Office of Health Equity Research and the community of collaborators who are committed to our mission. Thanks to all who attended, and a special thanks to David Williams, PhD, for his keynote and for his leadership in the global pursuit of health equity.

Michael Hazard | 5/2/2023

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