Health Team

New Duke Hospital research center aims to reduce health care treatment gaps

Posted January 12, 2018 5:39 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 2:06 p.m. EDT

— Duke University Hospital on Friday officially opened a research center to reduce health disparities between patients, an announcement that came just three days before the county pays tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream of racial equality.

The new Duke facility, called REACH Equity, is an effort to improve interactions between patients, health care providers and the health care system.

"We are beyond excited about the opening of REACH Equity," said Dr. Kimberly Johnson, a geriatrician at Duke Hospital.

New Duke Hospital research center aims to reduce health care treatment gaps

Research has shown that African-Americans tend to have less access to vaccinations, screenings and cardiac procedures when they are diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. According to studies, this disparity for black patients exists even when they have access to health care and health insurance.

"But they are more likely to receive some more undesirable types of procedures, like amputation because of the complications of disease," Johnson said.

Part of the center's mission is to develop and test new ways to reduce and eliminate those health care differences. A key battleground is the fact that black women are twice as likely as white women to be obese, which often leads to poor health outcomes.

Dr. Gary Bennett, who works at Duke's psychology and neuroscience department, said research dispels a popular notion about obesity.

"It does not seem to be driven by socioeconomic disadvantage," he said. "So, that it is to say that, at least among women, we don't see poverty as a real strong predictor of obesity."

Experts say researchers learning more facts about the causes of disparities is key to achieving equality of care for everyone.