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UVI to Host Health Disparities Conference on St. Croix

Some of the nation's leading scholars on medicine and health will meet Dec. 4-7 at the University of the Virgin Islands St. Croix campus for a conference to address health disparities in minority communities and to develop recommendations for eliminating them.

The prestigious conference is being hosted by the UVI Caribbean Exploratory Research Center, established with grants from the National Institutes of Health's National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCHMD), as well as the Medical University of South Carolina and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. The purpose of the Caribbean Exploratory Center is to study disparities and provide the medical community, government officials and individuals with the information and tools needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities in minority populations.

"It is our hope that this gathering on our campus of researchers, politicians and other stakeholders will be another step toward realizing our goal of addressing the critical health disparities that impact the quality of life for so many people of color in the Caribbean and on the mainland as well," said Dr. Gloria Callwood, director and principal investigator for the center.

Last year, the conference was held at the Medical University of South Carolina, one of the sponsors of this year's event. While the CBCF met last year to discuss health disparities, this year's conference has a new sense of urgency, leaders say.

"The second National Conference comes at a time when our country is poised for change, and there is a growing consensus and determination for reform of our country's broken healthcare system," the CBCF said in a prepared statement.

"While many think of the Virgin Islands as 'an American Paradise,' residents face serious health-related and economic challenges. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the poverty rate is 27.4 percent for individuals and 21.5 percent for families. This is in contrast to 12.3 percent for all persons in the US," according to the CBCF.

Among the conference presenters will be Marjorie A. Innocent, Ph.D, CBCF's director of research and programs who on Friday will lead a session titled "Faces of Health Disparities in the U.S." Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress Dr. Donna M. Christensen, a physician, will be the moderator for that session.

Also during the conference, Dr. Ivory A. Toldson, the CBCF's senior research analyst and an assistant professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C., will discuss his recently released report, "Breaking Barriers: Plotting the Path to Academic Success for School-age African-American Males."

"The UVI Caribbean Exploratory Research Center is totally committed to the elimination of health disparities. By hosting this conference on our campus, we not only join with others in addressing this national issue, but also show the nation that UVI is poised to become a leader in research," Dr. Callwood said.