by Annette Pinder
University at Buffalo began developing solutions to eliminate health disparities in Buffalo’s African American Community in 2019 by establishing a Community Health Equity Research Institute (CHERI). Now, the institute has launched a new website to include community groups and partners in conversations regarding UB’s important research. For example, if a community partner needs the University’s expertise for a project, it can request help through the website, and gain access to a faculty collaborator with the appropriate expertise. The website can also help researchers utilize community-based methods, such as focus groups, to increase community understanding and perspectives to achieve the best outcomes.
CHERI’S nine local partners include Buffalo Center for Health Equity, the Population Health Collaborative, and LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) WNY, among other influential organizations. A key emphasis is on multidisciplinary research throughout the university. According to Timothy F. Murphy, MD, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research and SUNY Distinguished Professor of Medicine, major changes in addressing health inequities for African Americans requires research into innovative solutions for a wide range of issues, including gentrification, the physical environment, food deserts, transportation issues, criminal justice, housing, education, and employment. As a result, all 11 of UB’s schools, plus the College of Arts and Sciences, will participate.
Services that can be requested through the website by UB faculty, students, staff, or members of community groups include assistance in identifying potential collaborators, community partners, specific populations in the community, and appropriate funding opportunities. Dr. Murphy says the website will bring together groups in the community who are already doing great things.
According to Dr. Murphy, CTSI partnered with community groups from the time it was formed and served as the spark that got everyone talking to each other to create CHERI. Thus, the institute emerged out of collaborations between the CTSI and the drivers behind the African American Health Equity Task Force, notably George F. Nicholas, pastor of Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church and convener of the task force; Kinzer Pointer, pastor of Liberty Missionary Baptist Church and task force co-convener; and Rita Hubbard Robinson, a community leader, who is an associate director of the institute and CEO of Neuwater & Associates LLC.
CHERI was established in 2019 to address health inequities primarily affecting African Americans living in specific ZIP codes on the East Side of Buffalo, where Black residents die prematurely at a much higher rate than white people; experience higher rates of poverty, lung cancer and infant mortality; and are at increased risk of being hospitalized for chronic diseases such as heart failure and diabetes. Those inequities became even more evident in early 2020, when communities of color nationally and locally were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The partnership between the task force and the Community Health Equity Research Institute was instrumental in helping to reduce the deadly impact of the pandemic in communities of color in Buffalo,” said Murphy.
Check out the new website at www.buffalo.edu/community-health-equity-institute.