SIU Population Science and Policy Recognized for Health Equity Efforts

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Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Department of Population Science and Policy (PSP) received the American Public Health Association 2019 Health Equity Award at the APHA’s annual meeting in San Diego this month.
The award honors an individual or organization that has worked to eliminate health disparities and improve health equity through advances in health education or communication. Department Chair Dr. Sameer Vohra and Administrative Director Heather Whetsell accepted the award on behalf of the PSP staff.
“Health equity refers to the ability for all people to reach their full health potential without being blocked by socially determined circumstances,” said Dr. Vohra. “Things like socioeconomic level, education, access to care and others factors can undermine someone’s health and ripple out to impact the entire family. Our team is focused on the 66 mostly rural counties in central and southern Illinois, an area that is unique, underserved and incredibly resilient. I’m proud to accept this award and look forward to doing more to broaden Illinois residents’ opportunities for optimal health.”
SIU School of Medicine formed the Department of Population Science and Policy as an extension of its social mission. A nontraditional academic medical department, PSP aims to understand and improve health, development and wellness in central and southern Illinois through research, intervention and more responsive health policy. Much of PSP’s focus involves rural communities’ social determinants of health, which includes external influences like income or education levels, built environments and personal habits.  
“I am pleased that we were able to honor the great work of SIU with this award,” said Sandy-Asari Hogan, DrPH, MPH, APHA Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section Chair. “We have been very intentional about how we imbed health equity into our programming at the annual meeting as well as supporting the efforts of those in the field doing the work. We recognize that to truly achieve health equity it is important that we not only eliminate health disparities, but also the social and systemic barriers, that not only unfairly, but unjustly disadvantage others. Congratulations to the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy for your work to eliminate disparity and elevate equity through health education and health promotion.”
PSP is currently working on projects that address the opioid epidemic; children’s nutrition, health and development; and creating specific rural-health focused policy recommendations.
For more information on this award or the Department of Population Science and Policy, please contact or

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