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Reducing health care inequalities is focus of new research center

Medicine@Yale, 2014 - July August


Many health care systems in the U.S. and abroad suffer from significant variation in quality and patient outcomes. With the July 1 launch of the new Equity Research and Innovation Center (ERIC), however, the School of Medicine is home to a new hub of activity focused on closing stubborn gaps in health care delivery and outcomes. Launched by Marcella Nuñez-Smith, M.D., ERIC aims to reduce health care inequities that disproportionately affect minority and low-income populations.

“The sad reality is that despite all the research and knowledge that has been advanced, disparities in health and health care outcomes persist, and some of the gaps have increased over time,” says Nuñez-Smith, associate professor of medicine and of epidemiology and public health and the new center’s executive director. “ERIC is laser-focused on asking the questions and looking for the answers that have direct implications for closing these gaps,” she says.

To best obtain these answers, ERIC’s goals include developing and disseminating research that informs evidence-based policy and practice, and serving to support Yale students, faculty, and others interested in conducting state-of-the-art health equity research.

The principal investigator of several federal and foundation awards, Nuñez-Smith leads a team of some 60 researchers from the School of Medicine and partner institutions across the globe. The center’s flagship research project brings together 40 researchers located at remote research sites in Trinidad, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Barbados. The multi-site cohort study will explore prevention and risk factors associated with non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, in low- and middle-income Caribbean communities.

With initial financial support from the School of Medicine, ERIC is building upon established research projects focused on diversity within the health care workforce and faculty promotion and retention in academic health centers. ERIC researchers are also working to develop new measurement approaches to capture the patient care experience.

“We will continually ask if we are focusing on the right kinds of things, results-oriented research that can inform interventions,” Nuñez-Smith says. “We want to try new approaches that will advance the field, so the next generation of researchers can begin at a [more advanced] starting point.”