DH-CHEER - Dorothy Height and DH-CHEER
In 1999, the Congress of the United States mandated and provided seed money for the creation of a center of excellence at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson) to address minority health. Over the past decade the Dorothy I. Height Center for Health Equity & Evaluation Research (DH-CHEER), formerly known as the Center for Research on Minority Health, has grown from a small dedicated group to a committed staff of over 50 faculty, post-doctoral fellows, students and staff who approach health disparities in a “biopsychosocial” or holistic manner. Such an approach takes into account the many factors that influence a person’s perceived need for health care and attention to health concerns – housing, education, health insurance and general family economics, co-morbidities and other existing diseases/illness, nutrition, gene-environment interaction, and access or lack of access to healthcare services. The success of DH-CHEER in using this approach has been acknowledged by many. But, perhaps a member of an NIH scientific peer review committee said it best: “One cannot help but imagine that this center 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 this group of researchers’ 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 a center to be emulated.”
Although DH-CHEER has always addressed more than cancer disparities, our being a part of a world-renowned cancer center gave many the impression that cancer disparities research was our sole focus. That impression is about to change. During the summer of 2010, the family of Dr. Dorothy I. Height gave tentative approval for the renaming of the CRMH to the Dorothy I. Height Center for Health Equity & Evaluation Research as a joint venture between the University of Houston (UH) and MD Anderson to be based in the UH Graduate College of Social Work and the MD Anderson Division of Cancer Prevention & Population Sciences.
Why these two entities?
Dr. Dorothy I. Height’s initial career was as a social work caseworker. The support of social work and social workers was one of her passions. It is a fitting tribute to Dr. Height to have a center affiliated with a college of social work and a hospital’s division of cancer prevention, that strive to progressively reduce and eventually completely eliminate the prevalence of health disparities in ethnic minority and medically underserved populations through feasible community-based innovative and integrated biopsychosocial approaches. In a 1998 interview, Dr. Height told People, “I want to be remembered as someone who used herself and anything she could touch to work for justice and freedom. I want to be remembered as one who tried.” It is the goal of the Dorothy I. Height Center for Health Equity and Evaluation Research to continue Dr. Height’s work for justice and freedom – “through science that benefits community.”
DH-CHEER acknowledges that myriad influences, both positive and negative, affect health and quality of life, and that health cannot be addressed as a single issue. The vision of DH-CHEER will be to change the paradigm in achieving health equity by bringing together specialists in scientific theory, basic, behavioral and clinical research, clinical and behavioral applications, and community-based participatory research, as well as experts in health policy, environmental health, city planning, history, social determinants and various other aspects of non-traditional pursuits, as a unified force.