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Health Disparities

The Division's research has had a longstanding focus on understanding health disparities across the continuum of care. The Division's portfolio includes work that identifies groups at risk for health disparities and studies that try to understand the mechanisms that underlie these disparities. This work has focused on underserved groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, immigrant populations, persons who are obese or disabled, and the socio-economically disadvantaged.

Dr.  Ellen McCarthy focuses on assessing disparities in cancer across the continuum of care from secondary prevention to diagnosis, treatment and end of life. She is particularly interested in decision-making at the end of life care for the very elderly and patients with cancer and on how disparities in cancer screening and cancer care affect cancer outcomes in racial/ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged and vulnerable populations. She was funded by NCI to describe patterns of care at the end of life for elderly patients with cancer, focusing on barriers to hospice care. Dr. McCarthy has published studies describing determinants of and variability in mammography use in older women as well as the relationship between regular mammography use and breast cancer outcomes in older women. She is currently the PI of 2 American Cancer Society Scholar's grants including one to study decision-making around end of life issues for Asian Americans with cancer.

Dr.  Christina Wee conducted one of the first studies identifying obesity as a potential barrier to preventive care such as cancer screening. Moreover, lower rates of cancer screening associated obesity appeared to be most prominent among Caucasian women but much less so in racial and ethnic minorities such as African American and Hispanic women. Dr. Wee's current work focuses on understanding observed racial and ethnic variation in preferences for weight and the use of effective weight control treatments such as bariatric surgery. She has also collaborated with fellows and trainees to examine the risk of obesity and the prevalence of obesity prevention counseling efforts in immigrant populations and those with disabilities.

Dr.  Angela Fowler-Brown has research interests aimed at understanding racial and socioeconomic disparities in obesity and cardiovascular outcomes. She has used data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study to understand the importance of health insurance for cardiovascular risk prevention. Her current work examines the impact of psychosocial and environmental determinants on racial differences in obesity and cardiovascular disease outcomes.