The College of Health (COH) was an early adopter of the University of Utah’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiative. As a new dean in 2014, David Perrin, PhD, appointed a committee of students, faculty, and staff who were charged with identifying and implementing strategies to help reduce racial inequities within the college as well as the communities they serve. The committee and Dean Perrin are now working toward creating a new position for an Associate Dean of Diversity.
“I think about our efforts in reducing health disparities in two ways,” explains Perrin. “The first is our work in the community to prevent chronic illness and disease in underserved populations and to help those who are sick find the health care services available to them. The second is by creating an inclusive and welcoming environment that helps the COH recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds.”
A good example of working to help the community is the COH’s partnership with University of Utah Health’s Driving out Diabetes initiative. As part of that initiative, the Wellness Bus and Center for Community Nutrition conduct screenings to emphasize the value of sound nutrition and physical activity in preventing diabetes.
Another important community outreach program is Connect2Health, in which student volunteers from across the U help thousands of homeless, immigrants, and other underserved people find the health care resources they need.
“Research shows us that minority and underserved populations are more likely to seek the care they need from health professionals who look like them,” Perrin says. “Therefore, the more successful we are at recruiting faculty, staff, and students from diverse backgrounds, the better we can serve these communities.”
“Now, even more than usual, we must be able to help our community,” he adds. “In the College of Health, we believe that including everyone makes health and education better, which is why we are actively working towards making the COH and the University a more inclusive and diverse place.”