Office of Health Disparities Research

Addressing Health Disparities is Our Priority.

The Office of Health Disparities Research supports meaningful research to identify and address health disparities and to help ensure Mayo Clinic patients reflect the diversity of our communities.


Tue, Jan 10

Mark Your Calendar: 2017 OHDR Retreat Dates

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

OHDR has chosen the date for its next enterprise-wide retreat: August 22-23, 2017 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Rochester, MN. The event will include an Informal Social the evening of Mon., Aug. 21, and the Retreat on Tues., Aug. 22 (full-day) and Wed., Aug. 23 (half-day). A special-rate room block at the Retreat hotel is being arranged and additional details will follow.

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Tags: mayo clinic, News, OHDR, OHDR annual retreat, Rochester, top news

Tue, Dec 6

Healthy Churches 2020: A Giant Step for Mayo Clinic HD-CBPR

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

A number of current and developing Mayo Clinic community-based, participatory health disparities research projects received a big boost in November, when two dozen PI’s, research personnel, and community faith leaders and volunteers from Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida attended Balm in Gilead, Inc.’s Healthy Churches 2020 annual conference. The focal point of Mayo Clinic’s attendance was to share research outcomes from clinic/faith-organization partnerships across all three sites with other nationwide faith-based health partnerships. Mayo Clinic, which also sponsored a Pavilion at the conference, used its platform to distribute educational materials and to give a presentation on childhood obesity (Drs. Christopher Pullins and Kenneth Poole, (AZ)). Additionally, Chara Chamie (AZ) and Monica Albertie (FL), OHDR Program Managers who spearheaded the community partnerships and PI research, also attended, helping health disparities researchers distribute a survey to conference participants. The PI’s plan to present the survey results at next year’s HC2020 conference and as the basis of a manuscript. The Pavilion, the educational materials, and the travel/lodging for all participants were jointly funded by the Office of Health Disparities and the CCaTS’s Office of Community Engaged Research. Participants re-port that the event, a forum for pastors and volunteers involved in health ministry, health fairs, kitchen ministries, and health education in faith setting to network and develop ideas for programs and interventions, was educational and engaging. Information from the event will support existing and planned research projects partnering Mayo Clinic with African American and Hispanic faith communities in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida.

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Tags: CBPR, community partner, events, FAITH program, News, top news

Mon, Dec 5

OHDR Retreat Focuses on Closing Gaps for Underserved

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

Over 100 researchers, clinicians, educators and administrators from across Mayo Clinic, as well as outside community members, gathered in Rochester, Minnesota, for the Office of Heath Disparities Research (OHDR) Annual Retreat in October. The meeting was a platform to share science updates, learn about study support and other resources, delve into health disparities topics and collaborate on future research projects and publications.

Keynote speaker Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIHMD), gave the talk “NIMHD’s Research Agenda to Improve the Health of Racial and Ethnic Minorities.”

Dr. Perez-Stable, NIMHD, in discussion with Dr. Eddie Greene, Mayo Clinic

Dr. Pérez-Stable made several key points about the NIMHD’s agenda:

  • Minority health and health disparities research are two different spheres. Minority health involves the distinct needs of racial and ethnic minorities; while health disparities are differences that adversely affect populations based on actual health outcomes (for example, incidence, prevalence, or health-related quality of life). Health disparities research aims to define the mechanisms behind health disparities and develop interventions. This work spans not just racial and ethnic minorities, but also low income people, women, underserved rural residents, and other populations subject to discrimination.
  • The mechanisms that lead to health disparities are complex and fall into the broad domains of biology, behavior, physical environment, sociocultural environment, and the health care system. For example, sociocultural stressors like food insecurity, racism or familial dysfunction can contribute to health disparities, as can biological factors such as gene variants or metabolic differences.
  • Biomedical workforce diversity is a priority for the NIMHD and “an urgent societal issue,” said Dr. Pérez-Stable. “We live in a society where 40 percent of the population is going to identify as one of [the] minority groups….Yet only about 5 percent of NIH grants submitted or awarded are going to African-Americans or Latinos.” African-American investigators are half as likely as white investigators to resubmit a scored grant.
  • Inclusion of diverse participants in research studies is also critical. “It’s not just being a good investigator….It’s actually good science,” said Dr. Pérez-Stable. “There are things we’re not going to find out if we don’t have a diverse sample.” He cited a recently published study that found a genetic variance common in African-Americans was misclassified as a risk factor for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, because African-Americans were not included in the control group. As a result, for over a decade, patients and physicians made care decisions based on faulty information on their risk of developing this serious heart condition.
  • The NIH needs to improve accountability in grant applications and recognition of investigators who do address minority inclusion. Too often, inclusion is “just a checkbox” in the review process, said Dr. Pérez-Stable.
  • Recruiting minorities is hard, and usually takes added resources and skills. Barriers exist, such as lack of trust, but the research community needs to end the myth that these barriers are insurmountable. “We have to be at the table,” said Dr. Pérez-Stable. “We have to be part of it….Otherwise, you’re on the menu.”

Reports on health disparities research at Mayo Clinic

Dr. Gerardo Colon-Otero and Dr. Tamara Huff

In other OHDR Annual Retreat presentations:

  • OHDR pilot project awardees presented results in research areas such as Somali tobacco use, childhood obesity disparities, positive health changes in rural African-American women, cognitive research in African-Americans, joint pain in obese populations, and wellness behavior in Alaska health aides.
  • Leaders from diversity offices provided updates on addressing health disparities “across the shields.” Sharonne Hayes, M.D., Office of Diversity and Inclusion, discussed the success of Mayo’s workplace climate survey and stated that some results showed that employees value teamwork and support their teammates. John Knudsen, M.D., Office of Health Equity and Inclusion, stressed the importance of cultural competence training for all Mayo employees. Barbara Jordan, Office for Diversity, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, elaborated on the charge to advance the diversity of learners and their experiences in the biomedical workforce.
  • Linda Larkey, Ph.D., Arizona State University, discussed strategies to overcome the multifactorial challenges to recruiting minorities in research studies.
  • Toni Mangskau, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, reported on successes using a recruitment process called “CEO” (Call, Educate, Opportunity) for clinical trials.
  • Michelle van Ryn, Ph.D., Health Sciences Research, discussed unconscious bias and discrimination in health care and what can be done about them. She emphasized that a commitment to an inclusive environment in the workplace maximizes employee contributions and creates a better health care setting for all patients.
  • Jon Tilburt, M.D., General Internal Medicine, and Wesley Petersen, Ph.D., Office of Health Disparities Research, discussed tips for surviving and thriving in a competitive research environment.

— Kris Schanilec

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Tags: Eliseo J Pérez-Stable, Health Disparities, mayo clinic, News

Fri, Jun 3

Mayo Clinic to Be Home of National Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program Biobank

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

Mayo Clinic will be awarded $142 million in funding over five years by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to serve as the national Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program biobank. The biobank will hold a research repository of biologic samples, known as biospecimens, for this longitudinal program that aims to enroll 1 million or more U.S. participants to better understand individual differences that contribute to health and disease to advance precision medicine.

Read the Mayo Clinic news release.

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Tags: Health Disparities, mayo clinic, PMI Cohort Program, precision medicine, News

Wed, May 11

Somali Tobacco Outreach and Research Initiative

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

Researchers study tobacco use in Somali community where 36 percent smoke cigarettes.

STORI Community event 2In a pilot project funded by the Office of Health Disparities Research, Arizona researchers have gathered baseline data on tobacco use in the Somali refugee community, with the ultimate goal of reducing tobacco-related health disparities.

A team led by Scott Leischow, Ph.D., has partnered with the Somali American United Council of Arizona (SAUC) to collect survey and focus group data from 200 Somali refugees on:

  • Tobacco use behaviors, perceptions and barriers to cessation
  • Health literacy, and health care access and use
  • Social networks for accessing information about health and tobacco use

Initial results show that 36 percent of the Somali people surveyed smoke cigarettes, compared with 17 percent of the general U.S. population. While 81 percent of Somali participants say they are ready to quit or interested in quitting, only 15 percent have sought help from a health care provider.

Researcher Janet Okamoto, Ph.D., reports that the data has also yielded information that will help shape future interventions to reduce smoking.

Janet Okamoto

Janet Okamoto, Ph.D.

For example, nearly half of participants report difficulty in understanding others because of language. And when health clinics have interpreters available, often Somali refugees do not know how to successfully access this help.

Only 38 percent of those surveyed say they have someone they can go to for advice about a health issue. But those who do not have such relationships tend to access the health care system more.

“We think this means those with less social support are forced to rely more on the system to get health information and advice,” says Dr. Okamoto. “What we don’t know yet, is whether people with more supportive health advice networks are not seeking information from health providers because the information they receive from their networks is sufficient or if there is something else going on.”

The research team will be sharing its results with the Somali refugee community for input on the next steps toward developing community-based interventions that help prevent and reduce tobacco use.

The project, entitled “Somali Tobacco Outreach & Research Initiative (STORI),” also sets the stage for future cross-Mayo collaboration to compare tobacco use interventions in different Somali communities, according to Okamoto.

“African refugee populations are already at high risk for disparate health outcomes, such as mental health problems due to past traumatic experiences. You add smoking on top of existing health conditions, and it’s a huge issue,” she says.

Read more about Mayo’s collaboration with the Somali community in Arizona: “Partnering with the Somali Community Through Research” by Research Program Coordinator Farhia Omar.

STORI research team with members from the SAUC and Mayo Clinic

STORI research team with members from the SAUC and Mayo Clinic

Mayo Researchers Who Address Health Disparities in Somali Populations

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Tags: Arizona news, Janet M Okamoto PhD, News, Scott Leischow PhD, Somali, tobacco control

Tue, Apr 19

Researchers Partner with Navajo Nation on Smoke-Free Policies

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

Since the 1970s, exposure to secondhand smoke has decreased dramatically in the U.S. with implementation of smoke-free policies in many states and communities. However, these protections do not apply on tribal lands, where secondhand smoke continues to pose a health risk in indoor environments like workplaces and casinos.

Scott Leischow, Ph.D.Mayo researcher Scott Leischow, Ph.D., Hematology/Oncology/Health Sciences Research, is the principal investigator of a study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute State and Community Tobacco Control initiative to better understand how a Navajo coalition is working to foster smoke-free policies. Dr. Leischow leads Mayo’s Office of Health Disparities Research (OHDR) efforts in Arizona.

In the study Networks Among Tribal Organizations for Clean Air Policies, researchers are examining social networks in Navajo Nation and how information is shared on the risks of secondhand commercial tobacco smoke, its impact on health, and related tribal policies.

“A unique and important factor in addressing exposure to commercial tobacco smoke is that natural tobacco is a sacred and fundamental part of Navajo culture,” says Dr. Leischow. “Yet commercial tobacco has found its way into Navajo society.”

Through interviews and network analysis, the research team has found that the majority of Navajo people surveyed prefer to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, but many are concerned that banning smoking in casinos could have a negative economic impact.

The researchers have been sharing such findings broadly with Navajo people. For example, they have developed a series of educational vignettes featuring video interviews with Navajo traditional healers on the influence of commercial tobacco.

“Our research is designed to collect and share information with the Navajo people on the nature and risks of commercial secondhand tobacco smoke, and to better understand how that information is used to foster policy,” says Dr. Leischow. “It’s up to the Navajo people themselves to determine if they want to end that exposure.”

The research team, which includes the Black Hills Center for American Indian Health and the University of Arizona, uses a community-based participatory research approach to ensure that Navajo engagement and leadership are central to the project.

Learn more about the Networks Among Tribal Organizations for Clean Air Policies study.

— Kris Schanilec, Public Affairs

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Tags: Arizona news, Health Disparities, mayo clinic, Native American, Navajo Nation, News, Scott Leischow PhD, secondhand smoke, smoke-free policy, tobacco control, top news

Mon, Apr 4

OHDR-Funded Researcher Named 2016 Kern Scholar

By Sumedha Penheiter sumedhapenheiter

Wilson_Michael_E_14JUMichael Wilson, M.D., PI of the OHDR 2016 Pilot Awarded project “Disparities in Decision Making and Medical Care at the End of Life in the Intensive Care Unit: A Pilot Study,” has been named one of four Mayo Clinic 2016 Kern Scholars. The Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery’s Scholars Program trains clinicians to use tools from applied sciences, such as epidemiology, statistics, economics, and sociology, to rigorously assess and improve patient-centered outcomes and health care delivery systems. Dr. Wilson, whose research focus is end-of-life decision making in the ICU and who will begin his program in July, is mentored by health disparities researchers Jon Tilburt, M.D., Victor Montori, M.D., and Ognjen Gajic, M.D. The three other Kern Scholars are W. Oliver Tobin, M.B., B.Ch., BOA, Ph.D. (Neurology), Elizabeth Lorenz, M.D. (Nephrology and Hypertension), and Rahma Warsame, M.D. (Hematology and Oncology).  Congratulations, to all!

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Tags: grants, Health Disparities, Kern, News, pilot award, research, top news

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