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A Healthful Intervention

Janine Jurkowski, associate dean for public health and associate professor, submitted the proposal which secured UAlbany's new health disparities interventionist. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 26, 2017) — Building on UAlbany’s major initiative to eliminate racial and health disparities, the School of Public Health (SPH) will use a new $500,000 SUNY Empire Innovation Program (EIP) award to create the position of health disparities interventionist, charged with reducing such health gaps in our surrounding communities.

The interventionist, a SUNY Innovation Professor, will seek to address gaps and barriers, particularly in areas such as aging, chronic disease prevention and food insecurities. The work will greatly support rural and small cities/post-industrial areas in the region. Currently, the closest health disparities interventionists can be found in Rochester, Boston or at the University of Connecticut.

“Direct public health interventions are essential to reducing racial and ethnic health disparities,” said Laura Schweitzer, interim dean of SPH. “This new position will play a critical role in translating our researchers’ work to address communities in need.”

The interventionist will also help SPH faculty researchers advance their research efforts, serve as a teacher of interdisciplinary methodology to mentor faculty, staff and student researchers, and open pathways for new grant funding opportunities in this area. The goal is to fill the post by July 2018.

Janine Jurkowski, associate dean for public health and an associate professor of Health Policy, Management and Behavior in SPH is the lead author and submitted the proposal.

“Identifying culturally and locally appropriate intervention strategies that work in real-world settings and can be scaled-up is the only way we will can have effective public health efforts to address health inequities,” said Jurkowski, who has been honored nationally for her community-based public health efforts.

These include her studies on the social and cultural determinants of chronic disease prevention, including prevention of childhood obesity and cardiovascular diseases, and her conducting of community-based participatory research and intervention research guided by theories of empowerment. The populations she predominantly works with are families living in poverty and women.

Continuing its Mission to Alleviate Health Disparities

Last spring, UAlbany announced a major public engagement initiative to fill the health disparities pipeline with a diverse group of researchers dedicated to closing these gaps by working across disciplines and in collaboration with community health care providers. The EIP-funded interventionist will play an integral role in this work as well.

SUNY’s EIP is designed to support campus efforts to recruit faculty researchers with a proven track record of externally funded research to SUNY. The award recipients mentor the next generation of researchers who will work with hired research faculty. EIP scholars drive innovation, enhance partnerships with business and industry, increase tech transfer, create opportunities for student research, and increase the competitiveness of SUNY’s professional and graduate education programs.

Investment and Performance Fund awards will enable campuses to create competitive start-up packages, including research and lab equipment, postdocs and grad students, research staff, and travel expenses, as they continue to recruit scholars of the highest caliber.

“Health disparity research holds the potential to achieve health equity and improve the health of our community,” said Grace Wang, SUNY vice chancellor for research and economic development. “This EIP award builds on UAlbany’s existing research strength in health disparities and will help grow UAlbany’s research leadership in this area.”

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.