About the Center for Health Equity & Evaluation Research
The Dorothy I. Height Center for Health Equity & Evaluation Research (DH-CHEER) is presently the only Congressionally mandated center focusing on minority health and health disparities in the United States. DH-CHEER is a collaborative partnership between the University of Houston and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. It is housed in the Division of Cancer Prevention & Population Sciences at MD Anderson, with offices at the Graduate College of Social Works at UH.
DH-CHEER continues to be a unique center whose focus is on "Science That Benefits Community." The approach of DH-CHEER is based on linking biology, psychology and the social world; a “biopsychosocial” approach to addressing health disparities. In 2006, DH-CHEER’s predecessor, the Center for Research on Minority Health, was asked to be one of the co-sponsors of the Department of Health and Human Service Office of Minority Health's Summit entitled, "National Leadership Summit on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health" held in Washington, D.C., January 9 - 11, 2006.
Over the past decade, DH-CHEER has successfully implemented unique models to address different areas of heath disparities. One of these models was a nutritional intervention program entitled "A Nu-Life" (African American Nutrition for Life) Study. The A Nu-Life study used a holistic approach to community-based nutritional intervention, investigating the role of diet, cultural and other social factors as they relate to breast cancer risk in young African American women.
Over this same period of time, DH-CHEER launched the Asian American Health Needs Assessment, the first-ever health evaluation study of Chinese Americans and Vietnamese Americans in the state of Texas, and one of the few health surveys of these populations attempted in the nation. On December 7, 2004, we announced to the community the completion of the survey and since then, results of the survey have been presented to the staff of the National Center on Minority Health & Health Disparities a well as to national meetings. On May 15, 2007, the Asian American communities were presented with the final document of the study of the Chinese and Vietnamese communities. This study is now being further expanded to explore health risks and needs of other Asian populations, including the Filipino and Asian Indian communities in the greater Houston area.
In 2003, DH-CHEER was awarded Center of Excellence in Partnerships for Community Outreach and Research on Disparities in Health and Training (EXPORT) grant, the only Center of Excellence in the state of Texas. In 2007, the Center of Excellence Grant was renewed; in the grant critique, one reviewer stated the following:
"One cannot help but imagine that this is exactly the model of a cutting edge health disparities center of excellence. It is hard to imagine that there is an aspect of body, mind or culture that is not under consideration with the present investigator's holistic approach. The combination of the caliber and experience of the leadership team, along with the scope of activities and the level of collaboration, within and across institutions, makes this an outstanding application. The integration of the goals of Project EXPORT and DH-CHEER, which forms the basis of the present application, promises to make significant contributions to our understanding and treatment of cancer and other diseases in minority populations and the medically underserved.”
In 2006, DH-CHEER became one of six sites of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Cancer Prevention and Treatment Demonstration Project. Known in the community as FAROS, the project enrolled almost 2,400 Latino Medicare beneficiaries in Houston/Harris County and surrounding counties. DH-CHEER staff served as “navigators” by informing FAROS participants and their caregivers about cancer screening; arranged cancer screening appointments for mammograms, pap tests, colonoscopies and prostate exams; and addressed barriers to obtaining health care services for Hispanic Americans, primarily Mexican Americans.
The DH-CHEER holistic approach is also reflected in the creation of a science mentoring program, offering training to students from kindergarten to graduate school/medical school and postgraduate levels. DH-CHEER was awarded the Texas Association Partners in Education (TAPE) Crystal Award in recognition of our partnership with Fort Bend Independent School District.
These are only a few of the research, education and training programs that have been established at DH-CHEER over the past years. Today, for every dollar provided by Congress, DH-CHEER has generated over seven dollars in peer-reviewed grants, including funding from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, as well as from the American Cancer Society, ExxonMobil Foundation, the Houston Endowment, Inc., Susan G. Komen for the Cure and, most recently, the State of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
One of the outgrowths of the Biennial Symposium Series on Minorities, the Medically Underserved and Cancer was the Congressional resolution designating the third week in April as National Minority Cancer Awareness Week (NMCAW). Each year, DH-CHEER celebrates NMCAW with a luncheon honoring community leaders and/or scientists who have attempted to make a difference in the health status of their communities.
Health disparities in the future, like any other issue, may become a topic that no longer attracts attention if not woven into the academic fiber of the nation. To achieve the objective of having health disparities remain an area of academic interest, DH-CHEER created a course and workshop entitled "Disparities in Health in America: Working Toward Social Justice”. Such efforts provided the anchor a degree program in health disparities, and led to the creation of the Health Disparities Education, Awareness, Research and Training (HDEART) Consortium, an entity of more than 30 major institutions and hospitals. The formation of this Consortium resulted in the selection of DH-CHEER/HDEART as a training site for the Kellogg Scholars in Health Disparities program. Today, DH-CHEER/HDEART is one of eight national Kellogg training sites, including four multidisciplinary sites (Harvard School of Public Health, University of California San Francisco California, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and MD Anderson - HDEART Consortium) and four community sites (John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Morgan State University School of Community Health and Policy, University of Michigan School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health).
As the only Congressionally mandated center outside of the federal government focusing on health disparities in minority and medically underserved populations, DH-CHEER's faculty, fellows, students and staff are very proud of what we have accomplished in our first decade. We look forward to future projects that will help to close the gap in health disparities in Houston, the State of Texas and the nation.