1200 HealthDisparities

Health Disparities and Chronic Diseases

The Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions (FCHES), under the direction of Debra Furr-Holden, focuses its research efforts on health disparities and chronic diseases that cross boundaries and directly affect the Flint and Genesee County community. The FCHES is an assembly of stakeholders, including public health researchers, policymakers, health officials, community organizations, and faith-based partners across a range of specialties to mount evidence-based and promising approaches to prevent chronic disease and reduce health inequities. 

Health Equity

Renee Canady, assistant professor in MSU’s online Master of Public Health program and CEO of the Michigan Public Health Institute, defines “equity” as ensuring that everyone has a fair and just opportunity for good health. There is an urgent need to talk about the predominant barriers to good health—poverty, institutional racism, class discrimination, and gender oppression—so the root causes of differences in health outcomes and experiences can be eliminated.

Social Determinants of Health

Evidence has shown that addressing social determinants of health through various initiatives improves health outcomes, helps to achieve health equity, and overall reduces health care utilization. Spartan in public health, Emily Williams, MPH ’13, director of population health with UnitedHealthcare, Greater Detroit area, creates pilot programs and interventions to impact the social determinants of health. Food insecurity, housing, transportation, and employment are some of the major issues the program addresses.

Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Disparities

African American women in the United States are three to four times more likely to have pregnancy-related complications and die than are non-Hispanic white women. Working with community partners, MSU researchers are using a grant from the National Institutes of Health/ National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to test the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a multilevel intervention to address African American maternal morbidity and mortality in Genesee County and Kent County. Co-PIs on the project are Jennifer Johnson, C. S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health; and Cristian Meghea, associate professor.

Period Poverty

Low-income families are challenged to choose between food, bills, and health products—including period supplies. In fact, nearly one in five girls miss school for lack of period supplies. A team of medical students, pediatric residents, and Flint Southwestern High School staff—under the direction of pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha —have established the Period Poverty project in partnership with the MSU-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative to deliver more than 12,000-period supplies to the school.

Fighting Lead Poisoning with Nutrition

Prompted by high levels of lead in the drinking water and a public health crisis in Flint, Mich., MSU has established a six-week program to fight lead poisoning with cooking classes. Through Flint Kids Cook, children learn healthy eating with foods that pediatricians say help limit the amount of lead their growing bodies absorb—such as milk, dried fruits, and green leafy vegetables. Amy Saxe-Custack, nutrition director of the Michigan State University–Hurley Children's Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, suggested the idea of adding cooking classes as a way to introduce kids to a wider variety of produce.

Opioid Overdose Deaths

While the opioid epidemic initially affected Whites more strongly, the acceleration of opioid-involved overdose deaths for African Americans outpaces that of Whites and signals a growing disparity; they are now 2.5 times more likely than Whites to die from an opioid overdose. A study led by Debra Furr-Holden, C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health, looks at the racial differences in rates of opioid‐involved overdose deaths. The findings call for a need to apply a health equity lens to opioid prevention, interventions, and treatment resources—as well as targeted efforts in states with demonstrated and emerging disparities.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, homicide is the leading cause of death for Black males between the ages of 15 and 34—making violent crime more than just a law enforcement issue, but a public health crisis. Epidemiologist Debra Furr-Holden joins Lonnie Joe on Primary Care to share her views about how a public health approach to violence has proven successful in preventing and reducing violent crime.

Advancing Health Equity for Older Americans Receiving Medicaid

Requiring older Americans to work as a condition of receiving Medicaid could negatively and disproportionately affect many. MSU’s Rodlescia Sneed, assistant professor, is among five researchers funded with a grant through Policies for Action; their two-year study will evaluate the potential impact of Medicaid work requirements on older recipients.