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August 2019
Last month, CHET was awarded a highly-competitive T37 Training Award from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities,
with the goal to provide research training experiences (BENCH to BEDSIDE and COMMUNITY) to minority and other underrepresented students and trainees at the undergraduate through postdoctoral levels in order to  prepare and enhance the next generation of scientists committed to research for improving minority health and reducing health disparities.
This award is the first training grant solely focused on minority health and health disparities research on our campus and in our health system and will engage trainees not only from across Northwestern University, but University of Illinois at Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University, as well. Read more here. 
CHET is on social media!
You can now stay up to date with the Center for Health Equity Transformation online. 
Check out Skinny Trees: Lifting Health for All, CHET's podcast featuring former Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita.
Follow us on Twitter @SkinnyTrees312  to be the first to know when our next episode is released and to learn more about innovative health equity research and programming happening in Chicago, as well as Dr. Morita's proudest moments as Commissioner. Listen here.
Health Equity by Design Summer Series
Last event for our summer series!
Wednesday, August 21st, 2019                                12:00 pm - 1:00 pm            McGaw- Kellerman Classroom (McGaw 2-322)                               
Join us as we wrap up our One Book Northwestern - Hidden Figures Summer Series
Please note change in date and location for this event.
  • Friday, August 9th, 2019                12:00 pm - 1:00 pm                       633 N St Clair St Suite 1800, Theater Conference Room 18-055
Thank you to our Summer 2019 Interns!
Top: Maria Young, Daniela Estrada, Hope Reyes
Bottom: Makeda Austin, Keertana Jain, Dina Taryal
We are so grateful to have had the chance to work with 
such an engaging and collaborative group. 

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. 
Fatema Rehman Mirza, B.Sc., MBA, MPA, PMP
Fatema Mirza serves as the Executive Director of Worry Free Community, a public Health organization with special focus on new immigrant population. She carries over 30 years of experience in healthcare industry including pharmaceutical research, healthcare IT, project management and community health. Her most recent ventures and projects include establishment of ACA enrollment team, community health screenings for health coverage and chronic conditions, community health worker trainings and PCORI funded Community Based Participatory Research project.

Q: Where did you see the greatest health inequities when you started your work? How did these disparities affect the communities that you serve?
  • ANew Immigrant communities is where I see greatest health inequities.  For new immigrants, it takes 5 years to acquire citizenship, if the immigrant has issued the Green Card.  Settling in a new country means redeveloping a root system and anchoring yourself to the ground which takes a lot of resources.  It takes time and energy to develop partnerships and relationships to find a good paying job or become self-employed.  During the crucial time where all the energies of the new immigrant is going towards settlement, not having the very basic needs met can at times be disastrous for the new immigrants and their families.  Additionally, the US complicated healthcare system requires an understanding and knowledge for locating and utilizing health care resources. This lack of support system creates barriers to seek help which can become further complicated if multiplied by cultural and linguistic challenges.
    These barriers of lack of health system understanding, healthcare coverage, and expensive health care jeopardizes the health of new immigrants and their families as they tend to neglect their health and fail to prevent any lingering health issues. These health disparities and health inequities of lack of timely care and lack of prevention very often result in the onset of diabetes, hypertension, and rheumatism.  Therefore, we see the new immigrant communities with higher rates of these conditions and many folks get diagnosed much earlier in their lives as oppose to late onset.
  • Q: What do you view as the greatest need now? How do you incorporate health equity in the work you do?
  • A: We need a community health worker workforce who are trained to expand healthcare systems’ understanding, provide education on how to locate the health resources and how to utilize these resources to maximize wellbeing. There are many similarities among different immigrant sectors no matter where they migrate from and they all have one main thing on common. They all need the basic needs to be met during their settlement period. Healthcare is one of the most basic need which is also the most expensive need. The migrants often don’t have monetary resources to cover the basic costs like kids’ physicals and immunizations.  Even though the Federally Qualified Clinics offer physicals at a very low cost and often on a sliding scale, not many people know about this resource. Immigrants also qualify for ACA enrollment, but very often they don’t know and often they cannot find anyone to enroll them.
    We have targeted new immigrant communities through our ACA enrollment project by providing them health coverage enrollments, including marketplace enrollment, Medicaid, and as needed direct them to federally qualified health care clinics. We also provide coverage to care counseling to community members in their languages to knock down the language and cultural barriers.
  • Q: What direction do you think health equity work needs to take to achieve health for all?
  • AAffordable Care Act, may not be a perfect solution but, has provided us with many opportunities to improve on our current state of health disparities. Health policy makers, health researchers, clinicians, public health professionals, non-profits, all need to work together to develop connections among each other and work together to develop a large CHW, Community Health Worker, workforce.  Community Health Work is an entire discipline and a body of knowledge so the Community Health Workers must be specialized. Just like the engineers who are specialized in mechanical, civil, electrical etc.; the community health workers also must be specialized in Health Coverage, new immigrant issues, maternal health, diabetes prevention, or mental health.
    The mechanisms provide specialty trainings to CHW will require developing curricula for each specialty and designing channels for getting the workforce trained. Additionally, we need specific codes developed by CMS for billing for each kind of CHW for their specialized services. This will help CHWs visualize a career path for themselves.  This will also motivate many young folks to focus and hone their skills in a specific niche market for them early in their education life who can later seek a health career.
  • Q: How can other hidden figures collaborate to amplify their impact on health equity?
  • AEach Hidden Figure is like a piece of the US healthcare jigsaw puzzle. No one else can fit in that very space that is specified for that hidden figure.  Each one is serving a unique role and fulfilling a very specific niche market.  They need to define their work according to the criteria of 10 specific public health core competencies. This way their work will carry weight and policy makers can use their data in creating public policies.
    Another point of collaboration for Hidden Figures is the focus on lowering the per capita healthcare costs. They can collaborate on specific health conditions and compare the pre and post results. Each inequity can be further dissected in many ways.  One way to slice an inequity is by culture. For example, there may be several organizations that are working on Hispanic health inequities. Each organization can take a particular health condition and by utilizing the same assessment and data collection techniques can generate a collaborative report among all hidden figures. Such data can be very useful when it comes to policy making and allocating government funding to eliminate health disparities.
  • Q: What does being recognized as a Health Equity Hidden Figure mean to you? Who are your Hidden Figures?​
  • AI am honored and humbled to be selected as a Hidden Figure as this indicates that my work is at least a bit significant to be noticeable. This gives me the necessary confidence in my organization’s mission and helps me focus sharply on target communities.  It is also a good way to get in tune with others hidden figures and bring in opportunities for collaboration and improvements.
    A few of my hidden figures are:
    •    Dr. Ayesha Sultana: Cofounder of Compassionate Care Network:
    •    Dr. Talat Khan: Founder of ARAA, Association of Retired Asian Americans
    •    Nancy Romancheck:  A Community Health Nurse who have implemented many programs over the period of 25+ years in Community Health Nursing.
Carlos Gallo, PhD
Dr. Carlos Gallo is a Research Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University. He obtained his Ph.D. in Computational Psycholinguistics from the University of Rochester followed by postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard University and University of Miami. Dr. Gallo applies his expertise in bilingualism, heritage languages, and natural language processing to extract actionable meaning from written and spoken speech to advance treatment and prevention of a wide range of outcomes including HIV, suicide, opioid use, and others. He has received funding from NIDA, NIMH, CDC, and AFSP. 
The overarching theme of his research program is to improve the implementation of EBIs. He has developed computational approaches to tailor interventions by studying the communication process during intervention delivery. He developed the first automated fidelity monitoring algorithm for a Hispanic focused family-based intervention delivered bilingually, Spanish and English. Dr. Gallo uses text mining and machine learning to discover linguistic patterns that are linked to implementation outcomes.
  • Q: What do you view as the greatest need now? How do you incorporate health equity in the work you do?
  • A: One of the fastest growing segment of the population is Latinos. Based on that alone, we would expect that research efforts reflected that growth. Unfortunately, we are still developing and testing many interventions that are mono-lingual and mono-cultural, hence creating a scientific disparity which will become a cause for population level disparity for Latinos. 
    I incorporate health equity in my research by recruiting and analyzing data from Latinos and by developing methods to tailor mobile health interventions to linguistic minorities.  (Reference: Dennis H. Li, C. Hendricks Brown, Carlos Gallo, Ethan Morgan, Patrick S. Sullivan, Sean D. Young, Brian Mustanski. Design Considerations for Implementing eHealth Behavioral Interventions for HIV Prevention in Evolving Sociotechnical Landscapes. Curr HIV/AIDS Rep (2019) 16: 335.  
  • Q: What direction do you think health equity work needs to take to achieve health for all?
  • A: Each segment of the population faces different challenges. And each individual within those segments of population also face different challenges. Moving towards listening and meeting each individual at their level is key for starting a conversation. The more we can address both system and individual needs, the healthier the population at large will be. 
  • Q: How can other hidden figures collaborate to amplify their impact on health equity?
  • A: Emerging evidence shows that linguistic style during intervention delivery affects engagement to the intervention. Little is done to support intervention delivery in a real-time fashion. We need more methods that can provide real-time feedback, increase intervention fidelity, and monitor useful adaptations. Initial evidence suggests that such methods must include aspects from computational linguistics and machine learning.

Listening Tour

We have been actively listening to the voices of colleagues, communities, policymakers, and students through events and meetings with partners, like you!
ChicagoCHEC Fellows visit the Puerto Rican Cultural Center 
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
Our ChicagoCHEC fellows had the opportunity to visit Humboldt Park for a site visit at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. The fellows were invigorated while talking to the center's Executive Director, Jose Lopez and learning about the site, its history and initiatives.
Bias in Big Data: Advancing the Conversation
on SGM Health

Friday, July 19, 2019
CHET was a proud co-sponsor of the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing's Bias in Big Data workshop. This event brought together scientists, students and community leaders on how bias operates in big data and data science, and its impact on health equity for sexual and gender minority communities. 
Cooked: Survival by Zip Code
Thursday, July 18, 2019
Our team attended the screening of Cooked: Survival by Zip Code last month at the Gene Siskel Film Center. This film is Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Judith Helfand's searing investigation into the politics of “disaster” – by way of the deadly 1995 Chicago heat wave, in which 739 residents perished (mostly Black and living in the city’s poorest neighborhoods).
We believe that a diverse and inclusive Northwestern is a strong Northwestern. We condemn all acts of bigotry on our campus. Recent racist acts here are unacceptable to us, and we stand against all acts of hate and in support of all members of our community. Hate has no place at Northwestern. Join us by visiting
CHET's monthly newsletter, Voices, provides up-to-date information on local and national initiatives, highlighting health equity research, resources, funding opportunities, and events.  If you would like to have your work or event featured in Voices please email

Continue the Dialogue

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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
the Institute for Public Health and Medicine.

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Chicago, IL  60611

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