Wayne State Receives $18M for Racial Health Disparity Treatment and Prevention

Wayne State University in Detroit announced the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities has awarded it $18.5 million over five years to establish a Center for Multiple Chronic Diseases Associated with Health Disparities: Prevention, Treatment, and Management.
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a doctor talks to a patient in an office
The ACHIEVE GREATER Center projects, which were announced by WSU as part of an $18.5 million grant over five years from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, will take place in Detroit and Cleveland. // Stock Photo

Wayne State University in Detroit announced the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities has awarded it $18.5 million over five years to establish a Center for Multiple Chronic Diseases Associated with Health Disparities: Prevention, Treatment, and Management.

The center will use community-based interventions deployed from three research institutions to fight hypertension, heart failure, and coronary heart disease in the Black population. Called the Addressing Cardiometabolic Health Inequities by Early Prevention in the Great Lakes Region, or ACHIEVE GREATER, it is designed to proactive rather than reactive.

WSU and Wayne Health’s Dr. Phillip Levy is the principal investigator of the center, which will focus its proactive reduction of cardiometabolic health disparities and downstream Black/white lifespan inequality in Detroit and Cleveland, two comparable cities.

Building upon existing collaboration between WSU/Wayne Health, the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, and Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals in Cleveland, ACHIEVE GREATER will include three distinct but related projects that focus on interrupting early stages of development by addressing multiple areas of influence that contribute to disparate outcomes.

“The future of medicine is community health workers engaging people where they live, work or play to enhance access to not only medical care, but social services, to improve their health outcomes,” says Levy. “How do we help people with challenging life circumstances so their lifestyle can improve? Health care has to exist beyond the four walls of a doctor’s office. Let’s get you the person who is going to help you with your needs.”

Here, Levy outlines a core component of the center — the use of collaborative care involving community health workers and pharmacists to deliver a personalized and adaptable approach to lifestyle and life circumstance intervention, called PAL 2.

Community health workers serve as a liaison between the patient and health care providers, and have often shared the lived experience of the person they’re trying to help. They know the local resources and can help fill gaps in social knowledge.

According to the 2018 article, “Trends in health inequalities in 27 European countries,” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S. life expectancy stalled before the COVID-19 pandemic, largely due to midlife mortality from cardiovascular disease.

People from areas with increased vulnerability related to socioeconomic status died more often and younger than people from less disadvantaged areas, according to two recent studies published in the American Journal of Public Health and JAMA Internal Medicine.

COVID-19 exacerbated an already worsening situation, and the U.S. Black-White life expectancy gap increased by 40 percent in the first eight months of 2020, a 2021 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed.

Each ACHIEVE GREATER primary project will be led by a principal investigator from one of the three participating institutions. All three will be supported by an administrative core led by Levy and a community engagement core led by WSU faculty.

“Our three integrated research projects all focus on interventions aimed at improving lifespan equality in Black patients by altering the trajectory of heart disease risk using improved access to care and precision tools for personalized health,” says Levy.

Both Detroit-based projects will leverage the Wayne Health Mobile Unit program to enhance access, layering the planned research on top of usual activities which include daily deployment into different neighborhoods with the specific purpose of screening and population health support.

In Cleveland, researchers have teamed with the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, the first chartered public housing authority in the country. CMHA has 60 developments with 10,000 housing units and provides quality, safe, affordable housing to 55,000 low-income individuals and families.

“I am delighted but not surprised that the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities chose Wayne State University to create a Center for Multiple Chronic Diseases Associated with Health Disparities: Prevention, Treatment, and Management. This has been a strong focus for the university, and for me personally throughout my career,” says Dr. M. Roy Wilson, president of WSU. “We have seen in Michigan how focused effort can eliminate health disparities, as it did with COVID-19. We look forward to continuing this life-saving work.”

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