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New KU center to focus on health disparities in underserved populations

Friday, June 8, 2012

LAWRENCE — The William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas has announced the inauguration of the Center for Excellence in Health Communication to Underserved Populations. The center, based in Stauffer-Flint Hall, will serve as a comprehensive center addressing communication about health promotion and disease prevention to at-risk populations locally, nationally and internationally.

“The School of Journalism sees the center as a great opportunity to collaborate and share problem-solving ideas that will positively impact people not only in Kansas, but on a national and international level as well,” said Ann Brill, dean of the school of journalism.

The center, founded with a grant from the Hearst Foundations, aligns with KU’s Bold Aspirations and strategic initiatives of promoting well-being, building communities and multiplying knowledge.

Known as CEHCUP, the center aims to combine teaching, research and service, which are the fundamental traditions KU is built upon. Mugur Geana, associate professor of journalism, is responsible for the creation of CECHUP and says the center will focus on promoting and supporting multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research that will help underserved populations.

“The whole reason behind this initiative is to focus on community health disparities, and we cannot do that without strong community support,” Geana said. “We really plan to work with our community partners, and we see this as a mutual benefit for communities and for CEHCUP.”

The center’s researchers are currently involved with partners from the University of Costa Rica on addressing health communication strategies about dengue fever prevention to populations from the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica. CEHCUP is also a partner in a grant funded by the Center for Diabetes Translation Research from the University of Washington in St. Louis aimed at engaging American Indian communities in improving diabetes management and delivering culturally tailored information about diabetes prevention.

CEHCUP plans to develop an integrated health communication course in the near future to better train reporters how to write health stories addressing health disparities and train strategic communicators on how to develop successful community health campaigns.

Students will be expected to become active in addressing health disparities and get hands-on experience by providing professional assistance for community partners.

“We are part of local, regional and global communities, and we want to contribute to their progress through education for future generations, service for those in need and knowledge building in areas that will support our community-driven initiatives,” Geana said.

Paul “Dino” Dinovitz, executive director of the Hearst Foundations, said, “Our directors were pleased to support the Center for Excellence in Health Communications at KU and applaud its efforts to train journalism students in the health communication practices that will best address the needs of underserved populations.”

Joshua Freeman, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center, said there are many reasons that medically underserved people have worse health than other populations. He said CEHCUP could help by encouraging audiences to become engaged with health information beyond that transmitted in direct conversation with a doctor, nurse or other health care provider.

“Using the entire variety of communications media, health messaging can be targeted to be most effective for particular populations,” he said. “CEHCUP will teach students how to develop and provide those messages, do research to find out what content and outreach methods are most effective, and help community organizations to get their messages out.”

CEHCUP plans to extend collaboration to other universities from around the US and abroad to develop its global agenda on promoting well-being to underserved populations. It will logistically support KU researchers who are currently involved or will become involved in research of underserved populations. CEHCUP also hopes to provide dedicated workshops on health communications to bring researchers and communities together.

Membership in CEHCUP will be open to students, faculty, professionals and organizations. Details about the center’s activities, funding opportunities, as well as membership applications, will be available starting in August.

To learn more, visit www.journalism.ku.edu.


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