Gitlin Delivers Drexel FIRST Seminar
November 22, 2022
In 2021, Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) and Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH), received a 5-year, $14.4 million NIH grant to focus on health disparities research, known as the Drexel FIRST (Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation) program. The aim of Drexel FIRST is to create sustainable institutional changes necessary to promote inclusive excellence for all and contribute to the science of health disparities that have an impact on individuals, communities and populations. Drexel FIRST has created a Health Equity Seminar series, a university-wide forum to discuss exciting work and ideas related to health equity. As a part of this series, Dean Laura N. Gitlin, PhD, delivered a talk entitled, “The promise and challenges of intervention science in addressing health disparities.”
During her talk, Gitlin reported on “Beat the Blues”, a community-academic partnership with Center in the Park, a senior center located in Germantown, PA, that sought to address underdetected and undertreated depression among older Black and African American individuals. Gitlin’s team identified that depression prevalence rates among this population varied from 10 to 35 percent and that primary care providers spent less time with Black and African American patients to address mental health concerns than white patients. Senior centers serve over 10,000 older adults per day in the United States, yet few center staff are trained to screen for depression. In addition, many seniors are offered pharmacological treatments for depression from primary care providers, but Gitlin’s team was interested in delivering effective nonpharmacological treatments that may compliments other care systems.
To address this health disparity, Gitlin and her team deployed a behavior intervention-based strategy that combined depression education, case management, referral and linkage, stress reduction and behavioral activation. As a result of their work, the team demonstrated statistically significant and clinically meaningful outcomes after four and eight months of intervention, and they found that participants at all levels of depression severity benefited.
Despite strong outcomes, Gitlin’s team conceded that there are hurdles to overcome in continuing this program. Senior centers are an ideal setting for addressing this health disparity, yet they often have limited resources to conduct Gitlin’s interventions. Gitlin shared that there are several possibilities to continuing their work, including conducting an embedded pragmatic trial in more senior centers across the United States and developing an online, self-paced asynchronous training program for providers. While work continues among Gitlin’s research team, her impressive seminar demonstrated the importance and possibility of Drexel FIRST and the necessity of addressing health disparities in local and national communities.
By Izzy López