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OU Students Tackle Health Disparities in Oklahoma

Monday, February 15, 2016 - Campus News -
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“America is not getting a good value for our health dollar.”

That was the message delivered to hundreds of students gathered at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center for the annual Bridges to Access conference. The conference is designed for and organized by students across a variety of health professions.

“We need a better future and it depends on you,” said Dr. Harrison Spencer, one of the keynote speakers at the event. Spencer is president and CEO of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health.  

“Most of our money is going to health care and much less to the factors that impact overall health. If you are going to impact health, you have got to get into people’s lives,” Spencer said. 
He explained that requires delving into the many varied factors that influence individual health, including social determinants, socioeconomic status, mental health, public health, education and early childhood education. Improved health, he said, requires more than just improved access to care. It requires a major paradigm shift in both philosophy and funding with less focus on treatment and more on prevention and better health outcomes.

“We, who are in health professions, are now required to work more with patients before they need health care. This is how we will improve health,” he said. “We need a better future and it depends on you.”

Hundreds of students and community members attended the event at the Samis Education Center. It was also streamed to a gathering of about 100 students at Oklahoma City Community College.   
"The title of this year’s conference is Oklahomans on the Line. We have people in this state who are in need every day,” said Oklahoma Health Commissioner Terry Cline, Ph.D., who also spoke at the event. “This conference helps everyone appreciate that all boats rise with the tide. When we are able to help those most disadvantaged, it improves the health of all.”

The Bridges to Access conference was the brainchild of a public health student who came to complete her studies at OU after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. She dreamed of an event that would bring together members of the community and students from public health, medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, the allied health fields and more.  

“This conference is a tribute to the student leaders who organize and oversee this event as well as to their commitment to addressing the many issues faced by the medically underserved populations of Oklahoma,” said Gary Raskob, Ph.D., dean of the OU College of Public Health.  “These students come from a variety of health disciplines; and together, I believe they will help us find very real solutions to the many challenging health issues that impact our state, nation and world.”

Bridges to Access is organized by the OU Community Health Alliance, an organization of health professions students devoted to improving healthcare for Oklahoma’s uninsured and under-insured populations through education and volunteerism. The conference is designed to help participants understand the importance of a multi-pronged approach to community-wide health. That approach includes inspiring patients to take positive action for their health, encouraging the use of technology to identify and track patients in need of health management, incorporating the best practices of inter-professional teamwork and collaboration, and recognizing that patient health also depends upon promotion of health by communities. 

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