Nursing professor joins health care initiatives

A nursing professor has been appointed to a local health equity council under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that seeks to combat health care disparities among racial and ethnic minorities.

Kimberly Acquaviva, a professor in the School of Nursing, will work together with health care authorities from D.C., Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware as a member of the Region III Health Equity Council to implement what she called an “action-oriented” federal directive.

The National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities will build upon government programs, such as the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and will invest in prevention and wellness. It also hopes to spread awareness about vaccinations, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the harmful effects of tobacco.

“There is a need at the national level for people to understand the ways that sexual orientation and gender identity can end up impacting how people access health care, and the quality of health care that they end up receiving,” she said.

The council draws upon experts from different backgrounds and specialties to comprehensively approach the problem of health disparities.

Georgetown University professor and council member Laura Anderko said she will focus on finding ways to help people maintain good health, in lieu of treating sickness.

Other experts, such as Nicolette Warren of the Society for Public Health Education, plan to emphasize the importance of gathering reliable statistics on the D.C. area. Tracking the effects of programs like the Affordable Care Act on minorities, she says, is a necessary step to be able to propose viable solutions to health care disparities.

Tracking the effects of programs like the Affordable Care Act on minorities, she says, is a necessary step to be able to propose viable solutions to health care disparities.

Fellow council member Mathew McCollough, who is also the executive director of the D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council, noted the relationship between education, socioeconomic status and access to quality, affordable health care.

Among individuals with disabilities, this problem is even more severe. In the District, nearly half of residents with disabilities fall below the poverty line, according to 2010 data from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

“Only through continued education and sincere investment and involvement within the community will one begin to witness the reversal of health disparities occurring within these populations specifically,” McCollough said.

As a member of the 35-person council, Acquaviva will make use of her expertise in the field of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender aging and end-of-life care to highlight an often-neglected minority.

“It’s really refreshing because all of our initiatives up until now at the national level to eliminate health disparities haven’t really alleviated these disparities to the extent that we want them to,” Acquaviva said. “The fact that we’re charting a new path is reassuring.” Acquaviva, a 2011 recipient of the Bender Teaching Award, holds a Ph.D. in human sexuality from the University of Pennsylvania.

“Kim is passionate about closing the health disparities gap, extremely well-versed in LGBT health matters and the perfect person to represent GW and the School of Nursing in this capacity,” Jean Johnson, the dean of the nursing school, said.

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