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Florida Health Equity Research Institute Established to Identify and Address Health Disparities

TAMPA, Fla. – (April 15, 2014) – The Florida Health Equity Research Institute (HERI) was established as a way to better understand health disparities in medically underserved populations, as well as to implement the Health Disparities Research Agenda for Florida which focuses on developing and testing innovations that will improve health in these populations. This will be accomplished through collaborations among Florida academic institutions and health care providers as well as government, community-based and funding organizations. 

The Honorable Joseph “Joe” Gibbons, Florida House of Representatives District 100, championed the establishment of HERI. “I have always been a staunch supporter of health care for the medically underserved and disadvantaged. Being a part of the development of HERI has been truly an honor,” said Rep. Gibbons. “I am eager to continue promoting independent health research for the areas that are often neglected while also narrowing the gap in healthcare disparities and cancer research.”

HERI is structured around four cores, or initiatives, to address a unique and relevant aspect of achieving health equity, specifically:
• An Education and Training Core: Collaborating with Florida Alliance for Health Professions Diversity to host a Student Symposium (for Health Professions Diversity) scheduled for April 25 at Florida A&M University to introduce approximately 100 underrepresented students to the health professions, 
• A Research Core: Awarding three to four $50,000 grants to multi-institutional research teams competing for the HERI Multi-Disciplinary, Multi-Institutional and Community-Based (MMC) Grants Program for Health Equity Research and Research Infrastructure.  
• A Community Engagement Core: Developing partnerships with community leaders across Florida to serve as members of the HERI Community Leadership Board.
• An Administrative Core: Establishing governance and evaluation of HERI under the leadership of a Steering Committee comprised of key academic, government and professional leaders in health equity.

“The entire team is excited about the progressive development of HERI,” said Vice President, Diversity and Community Relations, at Moffitt Cancer Center and Director of HERI’s Administrative Core, Dr. B. Lee Green. “With a solid foundation established, HERI is poised to lead the state in achieving health equity.” 

As a liaison for HERI, Professor and Dean Emeritus at Florida State University, Dr. Penny Ralston helped coordinate the Health Disparities Research Agenda for Florida.  “This is a highly important effort for the state,” she said. “Improving health of underserved populations not only will save health care costs, but will also bring economic vitality to Florida through garnering highly competitive federal research grants.”

Higher education institutions that have led the effort to develop HERI include Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College, Florida A&M University, Florida International University, Florida State University, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of Florida-Jacksonville, University of Miami, University of North Florida and University of South Florida. 

Stakeholder organizations working to advise and guide HERI’s development include the Florida Department of Health, consisting of its Biomedical Research Advisory Council, Florida Center for Universal Research to Eradicate Disease and the Office of Minority Health, the Duval County Health Department, Hispanic Services Council, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, 100 Black Men of Jacksonville, Inc. and YMCA of Florida’s First Coast.

For more information and to learn how to join HERI, visitwww.FLHERI.org, which serves as the “go-to” resource for Florida health equity researchers, students, healthcare professionals and the community. The site features the latest research, news and events related to health equity initiatives from experts from across the state.

About Florida Health Equity Research Institute
Florida’s Health Equity Research Institute (HERI) was established to better understand health disparities and to implement a research agenda that will develop approaches to promote health equity in the state. HERI will facilitate the design of broad-based studies to address health disparities in medically underserved populations and to evaluate the outcomes consistent with the goals of increasing the development of health innovations that improve the health of medically underserved populations; the translation, adaptation and implementation of evidence-based health innovations; the pool of individuals from underrepresented groups for the health professions; and biomedical research and external funding to improve economic development in the state. This will be accomplished through collaborations among Florida academic institutions and health care providers as well as government, community-based and funding organizations. For more information, visit www.FLHERI.org or email Info@FLHERI.org. 

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