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On February 27, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will host the largest and oldest student-run conference addressing minority health issues in the nation. Two students working with the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) lead this year’s conference.

Kevin Wu, graduate research assistant on the Are We Our Brother’s Keeper? project, is co-chair of the 30th Annual Minority Health Conference. Alrick Edwards, graduate research assistant for the WAY to Health project, is co-president of the UNC School of Public Health Minority Student Caucus, which oversees the conference. This year’s conference will focus on the theme “Our World, Our Community: Building Bridges for Health Equality.”

Wu has been involved with nearly every aspect of conference planning, including selecting the theme and keynote speaker. Barbara C. Wallace, professor of health education at Teachers College, Columbia University, will deliver the keynote address at 2pm on Friday. Wu expects more than 500 people to attend the conference in person and more than 1,000 to view the conference via satellite and webcast.

“This conference does an amazing job of bringing together people from all sorts of backgrounds, including students, researchers and practitioners from here in North Carolina as well as other states across the country,” said Wu. “ I believe this is a very important aspect of this conference and I am grateful to be able to facilitate it this year.”

Edwards is organizing an alumni reunion to coincide with the conference. He will also facilitate a conference session. Edwards said he wanted to be involved with the conference because of its unique approach to addressing minority health issues.

“This conference is an opportunity to meet with community leaders and see how scholarship interacts with communities,” he said. “Most conferences do not reach both the community and academia.”

Both Edwards and Wu have an interest in health disparities research. As a CDC Prevention Research Center, HPDP partners with communities to address health disparities. More than 50 students and post-docs work with HPDP to help develop this research. Are We Our Brother’s Keeper? partners with community churches to study how African American men cope with heart disease and stroke. WAY to Health is a worksite research study that aims to help employees improve their health by partnering with employers and community groups.

“I believe effective collaboration is imperative if real change is to occur with regards to eliminating health disparities,” said Wu. “ This conference, for me, is a perfect example of students working together to create a program that truly aims to bring together people to discuss what they can do to make change, not just talk about it.”

DateFebruary 25, 2009

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