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Health Disparities with Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, & Kiarri Kershaw, PhD, MPH

In our inaugural Breakthroughs podcast, Feinberg scientists Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, and Kiarri Kershaw, PhD, MPH, discuss their striking discoveries in the area of health disparities.

 

Mercedes Carnethon, PhD and Kiarri Kershaw, PhD, MPH

"High blood pressure tends to develop at a younger age in African-Americans in comparison with whites and tends to be more severe and is less controlled, which poor control ultimately can lead to downstage complications such as high rates of stroke and chronic kidney disease."

Mercedes Carnethon, PhD

  • Vice Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine

Photo: Mercedes Carnethon (back) and Kiarri Kershaw (front)

Episode Summary

Over the past 50 years, medicine has made significant progress in preventing, treating and curing disease. And yet, this progress has not been seen equally across all groups. Scientists Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, vice chair of Preventive Medicine, and Kiarri Kershaw, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of Preventive Medicine, are deeply invested in identifying health disparities — those differences in health outcomes between populations, such as racial, ethnic, geographic, socioeconomic, gender and other groups.

Kershaw was the lead author of a new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, that found the systolic blood pressure readings of African-Americans dropped between one to five points over 25 years when they moved to less-segregated areas. The publications are representative of Kershaw’s research expansion from epidemiological findings to also exploring potential solutions.

Kiarri Kershaw: "We were able to look at changes within the same individual when they move from a segregated area to a less segregated area to see what happened with their blood pressure during that same period of time. We were able to show that people who move to less segregated areas experience at least a millimeter mercury reduction in their systolic blood pressure."

Mercedes Carnethon: "High blood pressure tends to develop at a younger age in African-Americans in comparison with whites and tends to be more severe and is less controlled, which poor control ultimately can lead to downstage complications such as high rates of stroke and chronic kidney disease."

Carnethon was the senior author of a study published in JAMA that revealed black and white people have the same risk of developing diabetes when all biological risk factors, such as obesity, are considered over time. The study upended long-held beliefs that there is an unexplained or genetic reason black adults have double the rate of diabetes compared with white adults.

Mercedes Carnethon: "The reasons for disparities in diabetes are fairly straightforward. They tended to be attributable directly to differences in obesity. The solutions to that are very complex, a number of factors at the individual level, health behaviors at the neighborhood level and at the macro structural level contribute to the behaviors that influence obesity risk and much of the research that Dr. Kershaw was doing in our neighborhoods can actually serve to describe these neighborhood factors and how they influence individual behaviors."

Many intervention projects are also underway, including diabetes prevention in Hispanic communities and exploring mindfulness interventions for depressed women in disadvantaged populations.

Read more about Kiarri Kershaw's study, which was published in JAMA.

Read more about Mercedes Carnethon's study, which was published in JAMA.

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Continuing Medical Education Credit

Physicians who listen to this podcast may claim continuing medical education credit after listening to an episode of this program.

Target Audience

Academic/Research, Multiple specialties

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify the research interests and initiatives of Feinberg faculty.
  2. Discuss new updates in clinical and translational research.
Accreditation Statement

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Credit Designation Statement

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine designates this Enduring Material for a maximum of 0.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Disclosure Statement

Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, & Kiarri Kershaw, PhD, MPH, have nothing to disclose. Course director, Robert Rosa, MD has nothing to disclose. Planning committee member, Erin Spain, has nothing to disclose. Feinberg School of Medicine's CME Leadership and Staff have nothing to disclose: Clara J. Schroedl, MD, Medical Director of CME, Sheryl Corey, Manager of CME, Jennifer Banys, Senior Program Administrator, Allison McCollum, Senior Program Coordinator, and Rhea Alexis Banks, Administrative Assistant 2.

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