Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD, to give keynote address at launch of UCSF Center for Health

By Maureen McInaney

The UCSF Center for Health and Community (CHC) will officially be launched at
an inaugural symposium on Thursday, September 14 with the help of the nation’s
top doctor, Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD. The theme of the event is
“Surgeon General’s Warning: Social Disparities Are Hazardous to Your Health.”

“This symposium provides a forum to examine why marked health disparities
persist in the United States,” said Nancy Adler, PhD, director of the Center
for Health and Community.

“It also celebrates the establishment of the Center for Health and Community
and highlights its leadership and contributions to the understanding of how
social and behavioral forces affect health and disease,” she added.

Satcher and the CHC’s commitment to understand and eliminate racial and other
disparities that result in higher levels of disease and disability reinforces
President Clinton’s initiative setting a national goal of eliminating, by the
year 2010, inequities in health status that affect racial and ethnic
minorities. The president set the goal with the acknowledgement that minority
groups experiencing poorer health care are expected to grow as a proportion of
the U.S. population.

The Center for Health and Community enables more than 250 researchers from
epidemiology, health policy, anthropology, psychology, sociology, history,
bioethics, economics, and clinical research to coordinate efforts and share
their knowledge with students, clinicians and the public. UCSF researchers are
tackling a variety of social issues such as chronic disease, aging, violence
and access to care of poor and minority populations, with emphasis on improving
health care at the community level, explained Adler.

“Through the establishment and support of the Center for Health and Community,
UCSF clearly demonstrates its commitment and reaffirms its pledge to the health
of people and to the care of the community, not simply to the cure of disease,”
said Haile Debas, MD, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine.

“The Center places research emphasis on the human side of health care, on who
the patient is, not just what disease the patient has,” explained Adler. “No
matter how much glory flows from unlocking biological mysteries and performing
miracle surgeries, it is old-fashioned human behavior and social forces that
drive an overwhelming percentage of health risk in this country,” she added.

“Smoking, diet, lack of exercise, alcohol, guns and sexually transmitted
diseases are among the ten most prominent reasons for early death in the U.S.
This is to say nothing of their context - family, community, economics,
culture, race and ethnicity - all of which exert an enormous influence as
well.  Understanding how these forces fuse to affect individual health - and
unearthing solutions—is a vast, underexplored challenge that shouts for
collaborative biomedical, behavior and social research.” The Center for Health
and Community was created to meet that challenge, she explained.

The Center is playing an important role in teaching students in nursing,
pharmacy, dentistry, and medicine. Most recently, the CHC has taken the lead in
redesigning the UCSF School of Medicine curriculum to add emphasis on culture
and behavior, a change researchers hope will enhance students’ educational
experience and help them be more effective practitioners.

The Center for Health and Community is also educating the next generation of
social science researchers through its pre- and post-doctoral training in
health psychology, medical anthropology, medical sociology and health policy.

A widely respected public health official, researcher and former member of the
UCLA faculty, Satcher is only the second physician in history to also
simultaneously hold the position of Assistant Secretary for Health.  Prior to
his current post, Satcher served as Director of the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention and Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease