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Investigating Health Equity

CSU helps lead national opinion study

Health Equity

Cleveland State University will play a major role in a national investigation of health equity. The University is helping to lead the AmeRicans’ Conceptions of Health Equity Study (ARCHES), which will examine how Americans of diverse socioeconomic, professional, and racial/ethnic backgrounds think about fairness in the health domain. The project is made possible through a $699,960 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The CSU team is led by co-investigator Dr. Colleen Walsh, assistant professor of health sciences, and also includes Dr. Ronnie Dunn, associate professor of urban studies at Cleveland State and director of the newly established Diversity Institute. Dr. Sarah Willen, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Connecticut, is the principal investigator and Dr. Abigail Fisher Williamson, assistant professor of political science and public policy and law at Trinity College is also a co-investigator.

The grant will support a two-phase study that launched in October 2017 and will run through the fall of 2019. The researchers plan to investigate how Americans think about the question, “whose health deserves society’s attention, investment, or care?” In the first study phase, the research team will engage residents of Ohio’s Greater Cleveland area using interviews and ethnographic methods. A key partner in the study’s first phase is HIP-Cuyahoga (Health Improvement Partnership-Cuyahoga), a county-wide health equity initiative in Greater Cleveland of which Dr. Walsh has been an active member. In the second phase, the team will test findings from Cleveland through a national survey.

“Having been a member of the Eliminating Structural Racism sub-committee of HIP-Cuyahoga for several years, I have been interested in finding ways that research can help tackle some of the key questions facing health care policy,” Walsh says. “For example, how do we have open and honest discussions about race, class and gender that allow for policy changes to improve health?”

The results of the study will help advance local health equity efforts like HIP-Cuyahoga, which seeks to improve health for all people who live, work and play in the county. Walsh also hopes to involve students in the project and use the experience to improve understanding of how policy decisions around health are made. 

“In doing this applied research that engages the local community broadly, we hope that what we find will aid decision-makers and residents in their work to develop policy and practice around equity and inclusion,” Walsh adds. “We also want to prepare the next generation of health practitioners to better engage in the policy making process.”

The study team will also draw on the expertise of local residents and stakeholders as well as researchers at Brown University, Case Western Reserve University, Syracuse University, the University of South Florida, and First Year Cleveland.