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The Ins and Outs of Building International Collaborations to Research Global Health Disparities

By Dr. Marlene Y. MacLeish


Dr. MacLeish presentingIn late February, The Sullivan Alliance (SA) hosted the third annual Steering Committee Meeting of the U.S.-Caribbean Alliance for Health Disparities Research (USCAHDR). As the project director, it is my privilege to discuss the significance of this unique governmental/non-governmental partnership among SA, the University of the West Indies (UWI), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Our project focuses on research to ascertain similarities and differences between U.S. and English-speaking Caribbean populations of African descent and explores how this knowledge advances current understanding of the relationship among determinants of health, including lifestyles and health practices. The framework for our analysis comes from the Institute of Medicine’s 2009 recommendations published in U.S. Commitment to Global Health: Recommendations for the Public and Private Sector.

The work of the USCAHDR project is supported through a cooperative agreement, which includes the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), The Sullivan Alliance, and The University of the West Indies. Dr. Louis W. Sullivan and Dr. E. Nigel Harris, Vice Chancellor of the UWI, serve as principal investigators of the project.

UWI is a university system serving 18 separate countries and territories in the Caribbean. The University consists of three campuses at Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, and the Open Campus. There are satellite campuses in Mount Hope, Trinidad and Tobago, and Montego Bay, Jamaica, and a Centre for Hotel Tourism Management in Nassau, Bahamas. The other contributing countries are served by the Open Campus which has presence and Heads of Sites in each of the 18 countries. 

In 2012, a delegation including Dr. Sullivan, Dr. Claudia Baquet, representing the USCAHDR Steering Committee, and  I visited the UWI Mona Campus for the project’s first planning meeting. Dr. Sullivan gave a University-wide presentation, Global Health Disparities: Challenges and Opportunities, which was attended by faculty and students from across the disciplines. This event gave us important momentum and became a cornerstone for building this unique partnership.

Dr. Sullivan, Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George H. W. Bush, brings unique leadership, including policy perspectives from his signatory, Healthy People 2000to build this synergistic collaboration among SA, the UWI and the NIMHD, which is an invaluable partner, financial supporter and an important advisor for every aspect of this venture.

As part of disseminating the project’s research findings, The Sullivan Alliance and the UWI are creating an Electronic Platform (E-Platform) which will serve as a knowledge transfer portal for researchers interested in obtaining global health disparities research data. Researchers from across the globe will soon be able to access new health disparities data on the United States and the Caribbean to craft future policy and public health interventions that impact the health of the regions.

The USCAHDR project is currently in its third phase and our team of researchers is poised to publish initial findings in prominent peer-reviewed publications and journals. As the global community turns increasing focus to the rapid development of chronic disease across the globe, we are eager to share our findings with the scientific community and to establish future collaboration targeting global health disparities reduction research.

I want to take this opportunity to salute and thank members of USCAHDR research team, including Drs. Rainford Wilks, Anselm Hennis, Trevor Ferguson, Ian Hambleton, Novie Younger-Coleman, Nadia Bennett, Lynda Williams, Aurelian Bidulescu, Mr. Christopher Hassell, Mr. Damian Francis and Ms. Brigitte Collins for their stellar contributions to this project. Also, I acknowledge the invaluable support of NIMHD professionals Drs. Nate Stinson, Jennifer Alvidrez and Irene Dankwa Mullan. 

The USCAHDR team looks forward to the next phase of our research collaborative and our collective contribution to global health disparities research.

USCAHDR Annual Steering Committee MeetingFront (left to right): Claudia R. Baquet, M.D., M.P.H., University of Maryland Baltimore School of Medicine; Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., Principal Investigator, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, The Sullivan Alliance; E. Nigel Harris, M.Phil, M.D., D.M., Vice Chancellor, UWI; Nigel Unwin, B.M., B.Ch., M.Sc., D.M., F.R.C.P., F.F.P.H., UWI.
Standing (left to right): Ian R. Hambleton, Ph.D., UWI; Aurelian Bidulesco, M.D., Ph.D.; Nathaniel Stinson, Jr., Ph.D., M.D., Scientific Officer, NIMHD; Robin H. Carle, B.A., COO, The Sullivan Alliance; Trevor S. Ferguson, M.B.B.S., D.M., UWI; Marshall Tulloch-Reid, M.D., Ph.D., UWI; Marlene MacLeish, Ed.D., Program Director; Jennifer L. Alvidrez, Ph.D., Health Scientist Officer, Division of Scientific Programs, NIMHD; Anselm Hennis, M.B.B.S., M.Sc., Ph.D., F.R.C.P., UWI

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