The Role of BSSR in Addressing Health Disparities

As we commemorate Black History Month, it is imperative to acknowledge the pernicious and persistent health disparities affecting Black or African Americans in the United States. These profound health inequities demand our attention, reflection, and, most importantly, our concerted efforts to address the root causes. As OBSSR Director, I am deeply committed to leveraging the power of behavioral and social sciences to foster greater health equity and dismantle the barriers that disproportionately impact African Americans.

The legacy of unequal health care and health outcomes among African Americans is extensive, including higher rates and earlier onset of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases; poorer maternal health outcomes; and lower life expectancies. Socioeconomic factors, structural/systemic racism, and unequal access to health care services contribute significantly to these disparities. African Americans often face barriers in accessing quality health care, which exacerbates existing health conditions and hinders preventive care.

Behavioral and social sciences play a pivotal role in unraveling the complexities of health disparities and devising effective interventions. By promoting attention to and research on the social determinants of health (SDOH), such as educational quality, employment status, and housing, we can help identify the root causes of disparities and propose evidence-based strategies for improvement. Culturally specific interventions that consider the unique experiences, strengths, and challenges of the African American community can lead to more effective health promotion and disease prevention programs. Collaborative efforts among researchers, policymakers, and community leaders grounded in community-based participatory research are essential to implement systemic changes that foster health equity.

OBSSR aims to advance key behavioral and social sciences research related to the SDOH. Below are highlights from the past two years.

As we honor the rich history and contributions of African Americans, let us also commit to harnessing the insights of behavioral and social sciences to enact meaningful change, promoting a future where health equity is not just an aspiration but a reality for all.