NIH Conference on Health Disparities: "Standing Room Only"

A two-day conference, "Understanding and Reducing Health Disparities: Contributions from the Behavioral and Social Sciences," opened on October 23 to an overflow crowd.

A two-day conference, "Understanding and Reducing Health Disparities: Contributions from the Behavioral and Social Sciences," opened on October 23 to an overflow crowd. NIH's Natcher auditorium, which seats 1,000, was full, and many would-be attendees were wait-listed.

The conference focused on three areas of action influencing health disparities: policy, prevention and health care. The goals of the conference were to highlight and demonstrate the actual and potential contributions of behavioral and social science research to NIH's mission of reducing disparities in health; to identify areas requiring increased conceptual, empirical and methodological development; and to recruit additional researchers to investigate health disparities.

Attendees were welcomed by the Deputy Director of NIH, Raynard Kington, MD, PhD, and John Ruffin, PhD, the Director of the National Center for Research on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD).

Among the first day speakers was Nancy Adler, PhD, University of California - San Francisco, who gave a broad overview of the past ‘generations' of research contributing to knowledge about health disparities. This includes research on socioeconomic status and health and work on mechanisms by which disparities affect health, including the concept of allostatic load. Dr. Adler believes the fourth generation of research will be defined by more complex and sensitive methodology and measurement of socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity. Psychologist James Jackson, PhD, of the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, was scheduled to give the conference's ‘capstone' presentation on October 24.