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EVMS to launch Center for Health Equity to combat disparities in Hampton Roads

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed health disparities among local communities, and a new medical partnership hopes to help move Hampton Roads towards equity.

NORFOLK, Va. — Eastern Virginia Medical School is launching a new Center for Health Equity to improve health inequities in Hampton Roads communities.

“I believe we are going to move the needle on these health disparities," said Dr. Theresa Emory, EVMS board rector. 

In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, EVMS hosted several virtual 'listening sessions,' where people could share their experiences with disparities and suggests ways to improve healthcare for all communities.

The center birthed out of those discussions, Emory said. 

“The goal was to have the listening sessions so that we could hear what people were experiencing and learn from that. So instead of telling them, they’ve been telling us," she said. "This is going to be something where the community is going to be part of these decisions."

The center will promote health equity through community partnerships, research and education for EVMS students, faculty and the community. The effort will prioritize engagement with people in the communities, Emory explained. 

The goal is that it will also organize EVMS resources and use a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach (through research and community engagement) to promote equity and healthcare for people in socially at-risk areas. 

“The overarching theme that we are going to address is: how do we uplift the common narrative and voice of communities that have been historically disenfranchised?" said Phillip Jones, an EVMS community advisory board member. 

The center has already received support from local hospital systems. 

Riverside Health System and Chesapeake Regional Healthcare have pledged multi-year financial investments for the center. 

"There's is no doubt there are discrepancies between groups, and this kind of approach is a wonderful way to address those issues in a thoughtful way," said Dr. Michael Dacey, President and COO at Riverside Health System. 

"I can easily foresee us working alongside and supporting one another to improve the health of the community we serve," said Reese Jackson, President and CEO of Chesapeake Regional. 

The Center for Health Equity is still in the development stage, but it will be located in the EVMS Brock Institute for Community and Global Health.