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UB and community leaders launch research institute

Thomas O'Neil-White

Generational inequalities on Buffalo’s Eastside have led to increasingly poor health outcomes for its largely African American residents. To that end, the University at Buffalo and community leaders announced, Thursday, the launch of the UB Community Health Research Institute to tackle health disparities on the East Side.

Parts of East Buffalo have higher than normal levels of certain diseases, including colorectal and esophageal cancers.

The institute will feature faculty researchers and students from 10 different UB schools partnering with leaders within the community to address education and economic problems, and root causes of health disparities.   

African American Health Disparities Task Force member George Nicholas said the next step of the process will be making sure everyone embarking on this endeavor is held accountable for getting to the root causes of this problem.

“Any time you do something within a big operation like the university, the mission can kind of get lost and things of that nature,” he said. “But it’s very important for us to make sure we keep the issue around health equity in the center of this work.”

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White
Pastor George Nicholas

For Nicholas, keeping health equity in the center of the work means engagement with community and making sure East Side residents are having their voice heard.

But closing the gap in health disparities between East Side residents and the rest of the city will not happen overnight.

Institute Director Timothy Murphy said a marathon-like approach needs to be taken.

“These problems have been around for a long time,” he said. “There’s been a lot invested in solving these problems, and the health disparities in our neighborhoods, in our East Side are probably not a lot different from where they were 10 years or 20 years ago, despite of a lot of effort.”

Murphy envisions the diverse disciplines coming together to make significant changes to the East Side community.

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White
SUNY Distinguished Professor Timothy Murphy

“Each discipline, each innovative approach in architecture and planning, in public health, in medicine, in law, in business,” he said. “Each one is going to move the needle a little bit, and all of these social determinants of health that we talk about; the poverty will improve, the employment will improve, the condition of the neighborhoods will improve. I think it will be an incremental, step-wise process.”

Murphy said the innovative medical and health care research being done at UB gives the school the opportunity to become a leader in solving problems related to health inequalities.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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