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2008-2009 Provost Lecture Series

John Ruffin

The Science of Eliminating Health Disparities: A National and Global Health Priority

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
1:30-3:00 p.m.
Hemisphere Room
Hale Library

John Ruffin


Health disparities remain a pervasive health challenge in communities around the United States and globally. Research suggests that there is no single cause for health disparities. Disparities in health status are influenced by several interacting factors which may be biological or non-biological, making the issue of health disparities quite complex. Education, policy, environment, access to medical care, health care infrastructure, training, social, economic, cultural and linguistic factors, are only some of the issues that must be addressed in communities and nations worldwide to effectively conquer the global health disparities crisis. Around the world, it is the most vulnerable populations defined by race, ethnicity, geography or socio-economic status who are the most burdened by sickness, disease, disability, and premature death. HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes, are among the diseases that are devastating segments of the population. The elimination of health disparities warrants a multi-faceted approach that integrates science with other disciplines to understand the underlying causes, develop and effectively implement strategies to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases. Collaboration and partnerships must be central in any strategy to address health disparities. This presentation will discuss the global impact of health disparities and the role of science as a model for understanding and eliminating health disparities using the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Biographical Sketch:

Dr. John Ruffin is the Director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. He is a well-respected leader and visionary in the field of health disparities. He has devoted his professional life to improving the health status of minority populations in the United States and to developing and supporting educational programs for minority researchers and health care practitioners. His success has been due in large part to his ability to motivate others and gain the support of key individuals and organizations, as well as to his expertise in strategic planning, administration, and the development of numerous collaborative partnerships. For over 15 years, he has led the transformation of the NIH minority health and health disparities research agenda from a programmatic concept to an institutional reality. He has served as the Associate Director for Minority Programs, Office of Minority Programs; and the Associate Director for Research on Minority Health, Office of Research on Minority Health. As the NIH federal official for minority health disparities research, through multi-faceted collaborations, he has planned and brought to fruition the largest biomedical research program in the nation to promote minority health and other health disparities research and training. He has spearheaded the development of the first comprehensive Health Disparities Strategic Plan at NIH.