Population Health

Population Health

Population health connects practice to policy, enabling change to happen locally.

Population health focuses on health outcomes of individuals within groups and seeks to understand how diverse factors have an impact on the distribution of health in a population. As problems are revealed, communities can address them and improve health outcomes.

The Center’s John B. Francis Chair, Erika Blacksher, PhD, studies ethical and policy questions raised by health inequalities in the U.S. associated with social class, race, ethnicity, geography and gender, and the role of civic engagement in advancing health equity and social justice.

Although there is no consensus definition of deliberative democracy (also referred to as civic or deliberative engagement), Dr. Blacksher has described it, in general, as “engaging ordinary citizens with diverse perspectives in reasoned and respectful discussion about important social issues in search of well-informed proposals that deliberators will view as legitimate.”

Dr. Blacksher’s research involves community-based deliberations that convene diverse communities in informed discussions about health disparities in search of priorities and solutions. Among other projects, she leads “Building a Circuit of Learning, Dialog and Connection to Advance Health Equity and the Health of All,” which is developing a democratic deliberation toolkit to be used to convene racially, socioeconomically and geographically diverse Kansans and Missourians in a bi-state initiative to learn about, discuss and weigh in on population health issues.

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The Center has included the under-treatment of pain among its focus areas for more than two decades. PAINS-KC is a group of Citizen Leaders who gather monthly for education, advocacy and awareness. They share lived experience with research partners across the metro area to increase understanding of chronic pain and the value of including those who live with it in their research. They also collaborate with policymakers and pain advocacy organizations to promote comprehensive, integrative pain management.

The Center is gathering a collection of ethics resources on pandemics, disaster ethics, and crisis standards of care. In response to COVID-19, we have has archived more than 50 educational webinars. We also collaborate with more than two dozen local, regional and national entities, including the media, to advocate for embedding ethical principles into pandemic policies and plans.

The pandemic is far from over. Another is only a matter of time. The Center continues this work building on lessons learned with emphasis on equity and justice.

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