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01 August 2000

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

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 Registry.

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