Based in the downtown Hartford community, the UConn Health Disparities Institute (HDI) was launched in 2017 as part of Bioscience Connecticut. It enhances research to improve the delivery of health care and outcomes for the underserved including for boys and men of color.
“My life’s work is to prevent families from losing the men and boys who they love before it’s their time,” says Wizdom Powell, Ph.D., director of the Health Disparities Institute at UConn Health and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UConn School of Medicine.
Under Powell’s leadership HDI combines rigorous scientific research and translates it into policy to create structural changes addressing health inequities and disparities. Its mission reduces disparities by turning ideas shown to work into policies and actions.
Powell’s ongoing research, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is expanding the scientific knowledge on men’s behavioral health, especially in high-risk, young-adult Black male populations. HDI has innovatively introduced the first annual Report Card on Health Equity among Men and Boys of Color in Connecticut, examining their health care access and outcomes. Also, HDI has a series of overlapping research, policy translation, and programmatic initiatives focused on advancing health equity for boys and men of color in the state.
This June the UConn’s Health Disparities Institute hosted the State of Health Equity Among Boys and Men of Color Summit in Hartford. The unprecedented Summit focused on “trauma, incarceration and justice across the life course: transforming systems for behavioral health equity among boys and men of color.” The summit ignited public discourse and action to advance health equity, racial justice, and systems change for radical healing among boys and men of color.
“We are at a critical health equity precipice among boys and men of color. For example, this past year alone, we observed upticks in racialized violence largely directed at this priority population,” said Powell. “We need radically different approaches to addressing the collective wounding and heightened trauma risk induced by this social exposure.”
“We are so proud of Dr. Powell and the UConn HDI’s rigorous scientific research translating into policy to create true structural changes addressing health inequities and disparities especially for high risk boys and men of color,” said Dr. Bruce T. Liang, interim CEO of UConn Health and the dean of UConn School of Medicine.
Liang adds: “HDI is indeed an integral part of the community’s fabric and is moving the needle in a major way to actively improve the health care access, health and mental health, and lives of young adult Black men.”
In addition to improving the lives of boys and men of color, the Health Disparities Institute at UConn Health team is also improving other disparities such as COVID-19 health inequities, health insurance literacy, and medical debt — the number-one reason for personal bankruptcy. Its strategic focus includes health systems change, utilization, and finance; behavioral health; chronic disease prevention and control; and neighborhoods, housing, and health.
Learn more about the Health Disparities Institute and read UConn School of Medicine’s 50th anniversary commemorative report.