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VOICES

December 2019
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Northwestern Faculty Live in Chicago: Lifting Health for All

 
New Episode Coming Soon!
SkinnyTrees: Lifting Health for All has a new episode featuring Dr. Clyde Yancy coming very soon. We had a chance to talk to Dr. Yancy about diversity and inclusion in education, unconscious bias and much more. Listen to past episodes here
Hidden Figures Spotlight
Health Equity exists in every sector, yet it is often difficult to stay informed about all the incredible work impacting this topic. With the goal to elevate the work of health equity champions across traditional boundaries, each month, Voices will be featuring individuals and/or organizations advancing health equity work in and around the Chicagoland area who, at times, may be unsung to the greater community. 
Gregory Phillips II, PhD, MS (he/him)
Gregory Phillips II is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and Director of the Evaluation, Data Integration, and Technical Assistance (EDIT) Research Program within the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern University. Dr. Phillips earned his PhD in HIV Epidemiology from the George Washington University in 2012. His career has focused on identifying the multi-level systemic factors which drive disparities in HIV prevention and care outcomes, with an emphasis on researching the HIV epidemic among Black and Latinx men who have sex with men and transgender women. Dr. Phillips’ work bridges national surveillance projects with local, community-informed evaluation practice to end disparities in health access and health outcomes among marginalized populations.

Q: Where did you see the greatest health inequities when you started your work? How did these disparities affect the communities that you serve?
A: I’ve been working in the field of HIV research for over a decade, and have seen its disproportionate impact on both racial/ethnic minority and sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations. Statistics continue to show that individuals at the intersection of SGM and racial/ethnic minority status are the most affected by the HIV epidemic, yet resources have not been allocated according to need. Clinics and services tend not to concentrate in neighborhoods where predominantly racial/ethnic minority populations live, and people who access services at these places often cite experiences of transphobia and homophobia. Individuals at this intersection of minority identities have the least social capital, and thus are in greatest need for targeted structural interventions to improve their health.

Q: What do you view as the greatest need now? How do you incorporate health equity in the work you do?
A: There is so much we don’t know about the health disparities facing SGM due to non-existent or poor quality data on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It may seem simple, but collecting data on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity as standard practice within clinical and research settings can have a drastic impact on understanding health disparities within SGM populations. We have fairly good data on sexual orientation disparities in sexual and mental health, but even those are limited. If we don’t know the magnitude of the problem (or even if there is a problem), we can’t direct attention and resources toward addressing it.
My team and I have started to give workshops and trainings over the last year or so to inform researchers, evaluators, and practitioners about the importance of asking about sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Advocacy goes a long way, and I think this is the first step. Many researchers are hesitant to ask questions about sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity due to the sensitive nature of the question, yet have no qualms about venipuncture or other semi-invasive procedures – if we were to normalize asking these questions in all settings, it would be a good start towards achieving health equity for SGM individuals.

Q: What direction do you think health equity work needs to take to achieve health for all?
A:
Many populations still remain understudied due to lack of funding or understanding.  Bisexuals, asexuals, intersex individuals, and many others who fit within the SGM definition have barely been studied, despite comprising a substantial portion of the community. Until more focus is paid to these populations, sectors of the SGM community will never achieve health equity.

Q: How can other hidden figures collaborate to amplify their impact on health equity?
A:
The key is to be visible and vocal. We have sought to elevate the voices of these understudied and underrepresented communities through our podcast series, which includes people like David Jay (founder of Asexual Visibility Education Network) and Hida Viloria (intersex advocate). Researchers can have a greater impact on health equity by allowing the community to drive the research questions and health priorities, rather than solely focusing on the easiest funding. Community members are keenly attuned to the health disparities they face, and as such have critical insights that need to be incorporated into the work we as researchers do.

Q: What does being recognized as a Health Equity Hidden Figure mean to you? Who are your Hidden Figures?​
A:
I take it as a positive sign that I’m doing something meaningful with my job. I want to have an impact on the health and wellbeing of SGM individuals, and this recognition indicates I’m on the right path.
I unfortunately view the community as Hidden Figures – people at community-based organizations and clinics who are on the ground doing the direct service provision to address health disparities are having the greatest impact, yet are so often overlooked.  I try to make sure members of the communities I research are significantly involved in the work and recognized as important contributors – I never want my community partners to be Hidden Figures.
Coming soon CHET's Kitchen!
Our team is happy to announce we have been awarded a wellness grant from Northwestern's YourLife Program. We will be hosting two upcoming educational sessions addressing sustainable eating habits and food access inequities. Keep an eye out for a future CHET's Kitchen event!
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The Center for Health Equity Transformation is a joint center between the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and
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