Civic Learning, Dialogue, and Connection
to Advance Health Equity: A Deliberative Approach

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught America anything, it is that there is no consensus about our individual or collective obligations to protect and promote human health. With overall U.S. life expectancy in decline and race- and class-based disparities entrenched and growing, a new project at the Center asks, “Can people from all walks of life learn and talk together with mutual respect and concern about what, if anything, we should do to address America’s most pressing health challenges?”

Using the tools of deliberative democracy and population health science, this project is in the first stages of building a circuit of civic learning, dialogue, and connection about population health challenges in Missouri and Kansas. Democratic deliberation convenes diverse members of the public to learn about, discuss, and weigh in on shared challenges in search of solutions (1,2,3). Over the last three decades, deliberative methods have been used in the U.S. and around the globe to gather well-informed, carefully considered public input on ethically complex questions.

The project is founded on the belief that under good deliberative conditions people with varied identities and interests can learn and talk together and find shared purpose.

The Center’s John B. Francis Chair, Erika Blacksher, PhD, leads this project with a superb research team and advisory committee comprised of local, regional, and national experts in deliberative democracy, population health science, and health and social justice. County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has funded the first phase of this project. Since Fall 2020, these experts have been working to create a democratic deliberative toolkit that will be used in subsequent years to convene racially, socioeconomically, and geographically diverse Kansans and Missourians to learn and talk together about our most pressing population health challenges.

¹ Burkhalter S, Gastil J, and Kelshaw T. 2002. “A conceptual definition and theoretical model of public deliberation in small face-to-face groups.” Communication Theory 12(4):398-422.

² Chambers S. 2003. “Deliberative democratic theory.” Annual Review of Political Science 6(1):307-326.

³ Blacksher E, Diebel A, Forest PG, Goold SD, and Abelson J. 2012. “What is public deliberation?” Hastings Center Report 42 (2):14-16.

The Research Team

Research Team Erika Blacksher

Erika Blacksher, PhD

JOHN B. FRANCIS CHAIR
CENTER FOR PRACTICAL BIOETHICS 
Research Team Yukiko Asada

Yukiko Asada, PhD

FACULTY AND TENURE-TRACK INVESTIGATOR
NIH INTRAMURAL RESEARCH PROGRAM, DEPARTMENT OF BIOETHICS
Expert RT MDanis

Marion Danis, MD

HEAD, SECTION ON ETHICS AND HEALTH POLICY; CHIEF, BIOETHICS CONSULTATION SERVICE
NIH CLINICAL CENTER
Research Team Jarron Saint Onge

Jarron Saint Onge, PhD

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS
Research Team Nellie Kassebaum

Nellie Kassebaum, MPH

RESERCH COORDINATOR
CENTER FOR PRACTICAL BIOETHICS 

The Expert Advisory Committee

Dorothy Daley, PhD

PROFESSOR
UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS

John Gastil, PhD

PROFESSOR
COMMUNICATION ARTS & SCIENCES AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, SENIOR SCHOLAR AT THE MCCOURTNEY INSTITUTE FOR DEMOCRACY
PENN STATE COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS

Toni Gates

FOUNDER
RACES UNITED
2022-23 KAUFFMAN FOUNDATION EDUCATION FELLOW

Marjorie Ginsburg, MPH

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
CENTER FOR HEALTHCARE DECISIONS

Jason Glenn, PhD

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS MEDICAL CENTER
Expert AC MGold (2)

Marthe Gold, MD, MPH

PROFESSOR EMERITUS,FORMER CHAIR, DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY HEALTH AND SOCIAL MEDICINE
THE CITY COLLEGE OF NEW YORK

Sheri Johnson, PhD

DIRECTOR
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN POPULATION HEALTH INSTITUTE

Hedwig Lee, PhD

CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF RACE, ETHNICITY & EQUITY PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY DIRECTOR, UNDERGRADUATE STUDIES, DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY FACULTY FELLOW
UMRATH & ZETCHER RESIDENTIAL COLLEGE WASHIGTON UNIVERSITY
IN ST. LOUIS

Andrea Perdomo-Morales LSCSW, LCSW

CHIEF HEALTH EQUITY OFFICER
VIBRANT HEALTH

Toniann Richard

CEO
HEALTH CARE COLLABORATIVE OF RURAL MISSOURI

Bobby Saunkeah, RN, MSHCE, CIP

DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF RESEARCH AND PUBLIC HEALTH; CHAIR, INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD
CHICKASAW NATION DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

Robert F. St. Peter, MD

PRESIDENT AND CEO
KANSAS HEALTH INSTITUTE
Expert AC LStephens (2)

Lancer Stephens, PhD

ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR SOVEREIGNTY, DIVERSITY, EQUITY, & INCLUSION, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF RESEARCH
HUDSON COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA
Expert AC SValles

Sean A. Valles, PhD

DIRECTOR AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
CENTER FOR BIOETHICS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE,
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY

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Should Doctors Refuse to Treat Unvaccinated People?

ETHICISTS DEBATE Should Doctors Refuse to Treat Unvaccinated People? A story appeared on August 17 in the Alabama News w ...

Bioethics Newsletter Winter-Spring 2021

Bioethics Newsletter Winter-Spring 2021 The coronavirus pandemic has informed our collective conscience about w ...

Bioethics Newsletter Summer-Fall 2020

Bioethics Newsletter Summer-Fall 2020 From the mid-1980s when ventilators came into common use, the Center for ...

Bioethics Newsletter Winter-Spring 2020

Bioethics Newsletter Winter-Spring 2020 People don’t like to talk about politics, religion or money. To that ...

Bioethics Newsletter Summer-Fall 2019

Bioethics Newsletter Summer-Fall 2019 A 52-year old African American woman with chronic obstructive pulmonary d ...

Bioethics Newsletter Winter-Spring 2019

Bioethics Newsletter Winter-Spring 2019 Celebrating our 35th anniversary. View the Newsletter ...

Bioethics Newsletter Summer-Fall 2018

Bioethics Newsletter Summer-Fall 2018 Let’s go to the movies! Bioethics film series. View the Newsl ...

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