Lecture and conference cover health disparities

Jan. 22, 2013

Photo of Brian Gibbs.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2011 Health Disparities and Inequalities Report found that although life expectancy and overall health have improved in recent years for most Americans, this is not so for all segments of the population. On Feb. 20-21, Western Michigan University's College of Health and Human Services will examine these health disparities and ways to advance health equity with a Bill Burian University-Community Lecture and a conference presented by the CHHS Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.

Brian K. Gibbs, Ph.D., will present the Burian Lecture on "Health Inequality: Barriers, Challenges, and Solutions" at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the WMU Fetzer Center. He also will be the keynote speaker at the conference, Diversity and Inclusion: Preparing Ourselves to Advance Health Equity, being held on Thursday, Feb. 21, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Health and Human Services Building. Both events are free and open to the public.

Advanced reservations for the Burian Lecture only are not required, but are appreciated at mywmu.com/burianlectures or (269) 387-2663. Information and registration for the conference is required and can be made online or by calling (269) 387-8897.

Health disparities do exist. For example, babies born to black U.S. women are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to die than those born to white or Asian-American women, and while 29 percent of white Americans have hypertension, 42 percent of blacks do. The CDC also found that poorer Americans are much more likely than better-off ones to be hospitalized, largely due to preventable illnesses such as diabetes and asthma. According to the CDC, "Current information about the biologic and genetic characteristics of minority and under-served populations does not explain the health disparities experienced by these groups."

Brian K. Gibbs

Gibbs is a public health practitioner and former occupational therapist with 30 years of experience in health disparities reduction. He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. There, he recently served as Associate Dean for Diversity and Cultural Competence with responsibility for all matters of cultural diversity for Johns Hopkins Medicine.

While a senior research scientist in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health, Gibbs founded and directed the Program to Eliminate Health Disparities there. He has also served as a co-investigator and administrator for two NIH-National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities Centers of Excellence and co-authored the Commonwealth Fund's State Policy Agenda to Eliminate Health Disparities in Massachusetts.