Promoting Local and Global Health Equity
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Health Equity News | june 2020


I have spent a lot of time recently looking at initiatives and resources that address the social determinants of health that contribute to the stark health disparities experienced by the Black community. Racism has played a significant role in individual and community health for generations. This has become more obvious in the past weeks and months. In their newsletter, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation aptly stated, “Racism is a public health crisis that puts the entire community's health at risk, not just people of color. Addressing systemic racism must be a part of the conversation.” They went on to recommend using a racial equity lens when evaluating achievement and education gaps, when addressing issues in health, mental health, and economic well-being, and then using these discoveries to make policy changes.

This month’s newsletter includes resources and funding opportunities to advance research on the social determinants of health. You will also find a call to action from the African American Leadership & Policy Institute (AALPI). We have been discussing how we can foster collaborations among University of Illinois researchers, AALPI, and its partners to speed the translation of research to policy and racial justice.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities or have similar opportunities you would like to share, please email me.



Researcher Spotlight | Nidia Ruedes-Gracia

Prof. Nidia Ruedes-Gracia

In her researcher spotlight, Prof. Nidia Ruedas-Gracia discusses her research to better understand and address the association between sense of belonging and mental health disparities, her appreciation for University of Illinois’ connection to real-world issues, and how her personal experience influenced her research goals.

“As a woman of color and a first-generation/low-income (FLI) college student from an immigrant family, I understood firsthand how these systemic inequities impacted my performance. However, I realized these foci missed some crucial “behind-the-scenes” inequities that I was also experiencing. That influenced my current focus toward factors that are more psychological in nature, such as stereotype threat, implicit bias, connectedness, and mental health."

read more


Collaborate with the African American Leadership & Policy Institute

In response to the alarming disparities Black Americans have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the African American Leadership & Policy Institute (AALPI) seeks collaborations with University of Illinois researchers, policy advocates, and community engagement professionals to scale up its policy ecosystem in the areas of Black health and wellness. In their call to action, Illinois faculty member Lou Turner, and AALPI executive director Sequane Lawrence discuss their current work and vision for collaboration with University of Illinois researchers.

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Ask the Experts: Mental and Behavioral Health During COVID-19

On Monday, June 22, IHSI, in partnership with the Center for Social and Behavioral Science, will host “Ask the Experts: Mental and Behavioral Health During COVID-19.” Panelists include Ben Hankin, (Psychology), Heidemarie Laurent (Psychology), Karen Tabb Dina (Social Work), Tara Powell (Social Work), and Shardé McNeil Smith (Human Development and Family Studies). They will answer questions and discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on our individual and collective mental and behavioral health. We invite you to submit questions by Friday, June 19, and look forward to your participation in this lively discussion. This event will be presented via Zoom. Register to receive connection details.

register and submit questions


Introducing the 2020 Community Academic Scholars

We are pleased to introduce the second cohort of our Scholars for Health Equity. After a successful pilot in summer 2019, the program was expanded into the Community-Academic Scholars initiative, including two new programs, Scholars for Solving Poverty and Scholars for Brain Health. Though this year’s cohort has the added challenge of carrying out research projects while navigating the impacts of COVID-19, the eleven undergraduate students and their mentors have responded with creativity and flexibility in finding ways to conduct research that can still have a positive impact in our community. We will share more about the projects throughout the summer on Facebook and Twitter. Please follow #CommunityScholars2020 to receive updates about this cohort.

meet the summer 2020 scholars


Common Data Elements for Social Determinants of Health

NIMHD in coordination with the National Human Genome Research Institute and others at NIH is recently announced that the new social determinants of health (SDOH) assessments collection is now available in the PhenX Toolkit (consensus measures for Phenotypes and eXposures).

Standard SDOH measures provide a common currency for studying the various social determinants across research programs. Widespread adoption of the new collection can help researchers understand factors related to health inequities and enable effective interventions to reduce disparities. This is an open-access resource available for immediate use.

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Funding Opportunities

Below are funding opportunities that may be of interest to Illinois investigators. With our campus’ efforts in areas like mental health, community health, health communication, data science, and community engagement, these funding opportunities offer great potential for interdisciplinary collaboration. If you are interested in building a team, please reach out to me!

Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Admin Supp - Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
National Institutes of Health
Deadlines vary by awarding IC

Evidence for Action: Approaches to Advance Gender Equity From Around the Globe
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Deadline: Aug 26

Long-Term Effects of Disasters on Health Care Systems Serving Health Disparity Populations (R01- Clinical Trial Optional)
National Institutes of Health
Deadline: Standard dates apply. The next deadline is  Oct 5

Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Competitive and Administrative Supplements for Community Interventions to Reduce the Impact of COVID-19 on Health Disparity and Other Vulnerable Populations
National Institutes of Health
Deadline: Applications accepted on a rolling basis through Dec 15

Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Digital Healthcare Interventions to Address the Secondary Health Effects Related to Social, Behavioral, and Economic Impact of COVID-19
National Institutes of Health
Deadline: Applications accepted on a rolling basis through Dec 15


Health Equity in the News

6.15.20 To understand who’s dying of COVID-19, look to social factors like race more than preexisting diseases

6.15.20 African Americans more likely to know someone who died of coronavirus, surveys show

6.15.20 Amid the protests and pandemic, a renewed call for health equity reform

6.15.20 Racism is a public health crisis, say cities and counties

6.8.20 Why police brutality is a matter of public health

6.8.20 Akron declares racism a public health crisis, launches task force to develop five-year equity plan

6.4.20 How racism hurts black mental health & how you can help

6.1.20 Health disparities are a symptom of broader social and economic inequities

5.22.20 Using social determinants to promote health equity during a crisis

5.15.20 Racial health disparities already existed in America— the coronavirus just exacerbated them

5.15.20 AHA launches COVID-19 data challenge to address health disparities among African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans in rural areas


If you have health disparities work to highlight, or an item to share with the health equity community at Illinois, please contact me ( Visit the IHSI website to subscribe to additional health sciences e-newsletters.