Population Health Equity

The MPH Program’s Guiding Statements articulate the Program’s focus on health equity.  For example, the MPH Program Vision:  A future when communities are empowered to promote health, to foster respect, and to advance equity in Virginia and beyond. MPH faculty integrate a focus on health equity into their courses, community collaborations, scholarship, and research.  The following showcase a few examples of the faculty commitment to advancing equity in populations.

Community Collaboration

 MPH faculty are actively involved in the Thomas Jefferson Health District’s 2019 Community Health Assessment and Plan of Action (MAPP2Health) that focused on health equity in 2019. For the full 2019 MAPP2Health Report, visit:  The Department of Public Health Sciences was one of four members of the MAPP Core Group (Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, Thomas Jefferson Health District, UVA Department of Public Health Sciences, and UVA Health).

"An Overview of Ethics Issues for Public Health in Particular Populations"

“An Overview of Ethics Issues for Public Health in Particular Populations” is a section lead article focusing on health and equity by Ruth Gaare Bernheim and Elizabeth Fenton in The Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics (September 2019) Edited by Anna C. Mastroianni, Jeffrey P. Kahn, and Nancy E. Kass.

Abstract: Improving the health of populations is a fundamental goal of public health. An essential step to achieve this goal is addressing the varying health needs and stressors experienced by different populations and subgroups within a population, along with the significant ethical issues of health equity raised by disparities in health among these groups. This chapter provides an overview of the section of The Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics dedicated to examining the public health needs and related ethical issues of a number of subpopulations that generally experience or are exposed to health stressors. Those stressors may include historic injustices, discrimination and stigmatization, and unique social or physical needs, limitations, or vulnerabilities. The chapters in this section consider aging populations, children and adolescents, persons with mental illness, persons with disabilities, sexual and gender minorities, and immigrants and refugees. Examining public health practices and strategies through the lens of each of these particular populations helps to illustrate the ethical challenges of improving population health equitably.

The Community-Based Health Equity Research Program

The Community-Based Health Equity Research Program in Public Health Sciences includes a group of behavioral and implementation scientists and staff who focus on the development, implementation, and sustainability of effective obesity- and cancer-related interventions within rural communities.  This program is strategically focused on engaging stakeholders and patients and building research capacity across rural Virginia.  Most research efforts are currently focused in Southwest and Southside Virginia.  In affiliation with the UVA Cancer Center Without Walls, this program is housed in a satellite office in Christiansburg, Virginia: ‘UVA Cancer Center Research and Outreach Office’ and is led by Jamie Zoellner, PhD, RD, Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences. The primary areas of focus are: rural health disparities, obesity, including nutrition and physical activity risk factors, cancer prevention, early detection and survivorship, community-based participatory research approaches, dissemination and implementation methods aimed at translating evidence-based programs into healthcare and community systems, and health literacy. Research includes:

  • Kids SIPsmartER: A multi-level behavioral and health literacy intervention to reduce sugar-sweetened beverages among Appalachian middle-school students (Funding: R01 National Institutes of Health/National Institutes of Minority Health and Health Disparities)
  • A randomized-controlled trial to compare the reach, effectiveness and maintenance of two family-based childhood obesity treatment programs in a medically underserved region (Funding: Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute Research Contract)
  • Cancer Center without Walls: Advancing Patient-Centered Research for Cancer Control in Rural VA (Funding: Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute Eugene Washington Engagement Contract)
  • Building research capacity to improve colorectal cancer screening in rural Southwest Virginia Clinics (Funding: P30 National Institutes of Health/ National Cancer Institute)
  • Extending Evidenced-Based, Behaviorally Focused Interventions to Promote Cancer Survivorship in Appalachian Virginia (Funding: UVA Cancer Center, Cancer Control and Population Health)
  • Dietary patterns and quality of Virginia breast, ovarian and cervical cancer survivors (Funding: UVA Cancer Center, Cancer Control and Population Health)
  • Formative development and testing of an e/m/Health version of SIPsmartER (Funding: UVA Cancer Center)

The Mental Health Policy Research Program

The Mental Health Policy Research Program is an interdisciplinary collaboration in mental health policy, law, and public health. Faculty and staff from the UVA Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy (ILPPP) and the Department of Public Health Sciences compose a core group who study a range of topics related to mental health policy and related public health topics, such as suicide prevention. MPH students may pursue a focus on mental health policy by working with faculty on Program projects.

The Program is led by Heather Zelle, J.D., Ph.D., Tanya Wanchek, J.D., Ph.D., and Richard J. Bonnie, LLB, and supported by the Schools of Law and Medicine, as well as a contract with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. And it collaborates with many stakeholders, such as the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. Thus, there are often opportunities for connecting with a variety of partners in academia and public health, including the Duke University Services Effectiveness Research Program and the Consortium on Risk-Based Firearms Policy.

The Health Equity, Law, and Policy Research Program

The Health Equity, Law, and Policy Research Program is led by Dr. Cameron Webb, Director of the Health Policy Program, and a team of student contributors, Viewpoints is a health blog that offers weekly health policy summaries, special issue content, and guest commentaries. So tune in and turn up the volume on one of America’s most critical and dynamic domestic policy issues.

  • In October 2017, PHS launched the Viewpoints blog as a space for up-to-date health policy news, analysis, and predictions. Synthesizing health policy news and insights from around the country, Viewpoints aims to create a space for individuals to read, learn, and decide for themselves how to feel.
  • Check out the blog here!