Nation's health inequality to be addressed in lecture, conference

contact: Mark Schwerin
| WMU News
Photo of Dr. Brian K. .


KALAMAZOO—An upcoming conference and lecture at Western Michigan University featuring a Johns Hopkins public health practitioner will address the serious health disparities that afflict particularly poor and minority members of American society.

The inequality of health will be examined Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 20-21, at the Burian University-Community Lecture and the Diversity and Inclusion: Preparing Ourselves to Advance Health Equity Conference. The conference is presented by the WMU College of Health and Human Services Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.

Dr. Brian K. Gibbs, assistant professor of general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins University, will present the Burian Lecture at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, in the Fetzer Center's Kirsch Auditorium. His presentation, titled "Health Inequality: Barriers, Challenges and Solutions," is free and open to the public.

Brian K. Gibbs

Gibbs, a former occupational therapist with 30 years of experience in reducing health disparities, recently served as associate dean for diversity and cultural competence with responsibility for all matters of cultural diversity for Johns Hopkins Medicine. Formerly a senior research scientist in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health, Gibbs founded and directed the Program to Eliminate Health Disparities.

Gibbs also has served as the center director, community outreach and intervention core director and co-investigator for two NIH-National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities Centers of Excellence and co-authored the Commonwealth Fund's State Policy Agenda to Eliminate Health Disparities in Massachusetts.

In addition to delivering the Burian Lecture, Gibbs also will be the keynote speaker at the conference the following day. His conference presentation is from 8:45 to 9:45 a.m. in 4010 College of Health and Human Services Building.

Gibbs' address is one of many activities taking place during the conference, running from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Concurrent sessions, beginning at 10 a.m. after Gibbs speaks, will address such issues as Internet-based nutrition education and increasing access to health for clients in the Women, Infants and Children program, using community organizing to break the barriers of health inequality, promoting health literacy, infant mortality, fairness and equity in mental health treatment, migrant health issues and other related topics.

Glaring disparities reported

The conference comes at a time when disparities in health have become increasingly glaring. A 2011 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that life expectancy and overall health have improved in recent years for most Americans, but not for all segments of the population. Health disparities are evident between rich and poor, black and white and the highly educated and not highly educated. For example, infants born to black U.S. women are up to three times more likely to die than those born to white or Asian-American women.

Advance reservations for the Burian Lecture only are not required, but are appreciated by going to or calling (269) 387-2663. Established in memory of Bill Burian, the founding dean of the WMU College of Health and Human Services, the Burian University-Community Lecture series brings members of the community and University together to interact with leaders in the field, focusing on the qualities of health and human services that were the essence of Burian's mission.

Registration for the conference and keynote address is required and can be made online at or by calling (269) 387-8897.