A major initiative of our office is to expand our mission to encompass community and population health.
By enhancing diversity of the medical workforce and improving culturally competent, or cross-cultural, communication and practice, we can more effectively reduce health inequities.
Improving cultural diversity within the academic workforce is not only a 21st century moral imperative but is the centerpiece in our national effort to eliminate health inequities.
— Will Ross, MD, MPH
Medical centers are beginning to recognize that cultural competence should encompass a broader understanding of the socio-cultural factors that influence health; that is, the social determinants of health. Reducing health disparities requires academic medical centers to commit to a culturally competent curriculum and clinical practice agendas so that they may achieve measurable outcomes in improving community health inequities.
Solutions to health disparities must include approaches that engage community members in meaningful partnerships that empower them to practice healthy behaviors and promote health in their communities.
Community engagement programs
Service learning has emerged as an effective teaching tool that links classroom theory with practice, while creating potentially lifelong opportunities for students to engage in their communities. Programs like the Washington University Medical Plunge (WUMP) introduce students to the social determinants of health and lay the foundation for future service learning opportunities.
Medical students also lead popular community engagement activities, such as the nutrition screening and outreach and classroom mentoring at the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, a magnet high school for students pursuing careers in medicine and technology.