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Stephen Thomas, Ph.D.

 

Stephen Thomas, Ph.D.

Pitt’s Center for Minority Health to Play Prominent Role in National Leadership Summit on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health

PITTSBURGH, January 5, 2005 — The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Minority Health (CMH), housed in the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), will co-sponsor the National Leadership Summit on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health to be held Jan. 9-11 in Washington, D.C.

The 2006 summit, “Embracing a Common Destination: Improving Health Outcomes for All Americans,” is hosted by the Office of Minority Health of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“For CMH to be the academic co-sponsor for the 2006 Summit in Washington, D.C. is fitting as we were first to bring federal officials and health professionals together five years ago in Pittsburgh,” said Stephen Thomas, Ph.D. , director of CMH and the Philip Hallen Professor of Community Health and Social Justice in GSPH.

CMH staff will present a plenary session from 8 to 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 10 called “Overcoming Barriers to Building Community Trust: Engagement for Eliminating Health Disparities.”

“By highlighting the central role of community partners to development, implementation and evaluation of interventions that are tailored to community needs, we will demonstrate how small steps can lead to great rewards in generating community ownership of health promotion and disease prevention programs,” Dr. Thomas said.

The panel also will highlight the significance of local foundation support during early stages of program development.

“Pittsburgh is blessed with forward-thinking foundation leaders who have invested more than $1.4 million in efforts to eliminate health disparities,” Dr. Thomas noted.

Members of the panel include, Angela Ford, Ph.D., associate director; Sekai Turner, Ph.D., project director; Mario Browne, M.P.H., associate director; and Dr. Thomas, all from CMH.

The panel will cite examples of CMH’s national prominence as a leader in community-based and grass-roots efforts to eliminate health disparities. For example, the Healthy Black Family Project has enrolled more than 2,000 participants since June 2005.

“Take A Health Professional to the People Day” utilizes barbershops and beauty salons in African American neighborhoods as communication portals and venues for health professionals to conduct medical screenings and provide health education. The barbers and salon operators are trained as lay health advocates to form a bridge between the community and health resources at the University of Pittsburgh.

“The strength of the model is in its simplicity and seamless connection to the cultural fabric of the Black community,” said Dr. Thomas.

Among the unique programs and strategies implemented by CMH are community-based interventions that range from development of culturally tailored health communication materials designed to address an individual’s risk behaviors to media advocacy—using mass media to advocate for policy change.

With leadership from The Pittsburgh Foundation, the Funders Forum on Health Disparities was established in 2002 in support of the innovative efforts designed by Dr. Thomas and his team.

With team leadership from Dr. Ford and community partners, CMH established “Health Disparity Working Groups” as an ongoing infrastructure to plan and evaluate implementation of local grass-roots efforts to celebrate the annual National Minority Health Month each April when innovative strategies aimed at promoting health and preventing disease are deployed across greater Pittsburgh.

Dr. Thomas is one of the nation’s leading scholars in the effort to eliminate health disparities based on race. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Thomas has applied his expertise in behavioral science and health education in the African American community. His work has addressed several critical public health issues including, but not limited to, HIV/AIDS, youth violence, substance abuse and the need for more organ and tissue donations among African Americans.

Dr. Thomas came to Pittsburgh in 2000 after eight years at Emory University in Atlanta where he was associate professor in the department of behavioral sciences and health education, and director, Institute for Minority Health Research at Rollins School of Public Health. He also has held faculty positions at the University of Maryland, where he was co-founder and director of the Minority Health Research Laboratory, Southern Illinois University and the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.

CMH was established in 1994 with a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and is committed to taking a leading role in the nation's prevention agenda to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities as described in Healthy People 2010, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initiative. Details about the other CMH activities can be viewed on the CMH Web site at www.cmh.pitt.edu. The telephone number of CMH is 412-624-5665.

For more information on the Summit, go to http://www.omhsummit2006.org .

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