New Meharry Medical College institute aims to improve health among Nashville’s poor

  • The Global Health Equity Institute will be the first part of Meharry’s long range plans to establish a School of Global Public Health
  • Daniel E. Dawes, former executive director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, will lead the new Meharry institute
  • Research will focus on health care disparities in Tennessee, in the United States and around the globe

Meharry Medical College is launching a new think tank to study ways to improve health outcomes for the nation’s poor and non-white residents, who tend to have shorter lives and more chronic medical problems.

The new Global Health Equity Institute will be the first piece of Meharry’s plans in 2026 to establish a School of Global Public Health, which college officials say would be a unique addition to a historically Black college/university like Meharry.

The college has tapped Daniel E. Dawes to lead the institute. He was previously executive director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine as well as a professor of health law, policy and management in the department of community health and preventive medicine there.

“Think about how health inequities result in our society, why we see higher rates of chronic diseases in African American communities or in Native American communities, when we see high rates of mental illness and substance use disorders among the white population groups, why have these manifested?” Dawes said. “As health equity champions, as researchers, we want to get to the root causes of these inequities and that’s precisely what we’re going to be doing.”

Daniel Dawes

The school will specifically study structural discrimination in public health in Tennessee, the U.S. and globally, according to Meharry. It will also help develop ways to improve the lives of all population groups who tend to have poorer health outcomes.

Studies have long shown that people living in more economically prosperous regions tend to have better outcomes, regardless of their access to health care.

In Tennessee, for instance, affluent Williamson County is consistently ranked as Tennessee’s healthiest community by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The state’s counties with higher poverty rates consistently rank at the bottom for health outcomes, the data show.

James Hildreth, president and CEO of Meharry Medical College, said the idea of the new school was inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and gaps in treatment and prevention he said became the crisis highlighted.

James Hildreth

“The pandemic showed that there’s a huge gap between the health status of minority communities and white communities, and we have to (change) those social determinants of health,” Hildreth said. “Where you live, what you eat, where you work, your economic stability, your educational level of attainment — all those things contribute to being healthy.”

Frank Gluck is the health care reporter for The Tennessean. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @FrankGluck.

Want to read more stories like this? A subscription to one of our Tennessee publications gets you unlimited access to all the latest political news, plus newsletters, a personalized mobile experience, and the ability to tap into stories, photos and videos from throughout the USA TODAY Network’s daily sites.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *