Reducing Racial and Ethnic Gaps in Health Care

Carol Weitzman, M.D.

Carol Weitzman, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, is a recipient of a two-year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) grant aimed at eliminating racial and ethnic health care disparities in the care and treatment of depression in local communities.

The total $2 million grant, “Finding Answers: Disparities Research for Change,” was awarded jointly to investigators at 11 of 178 organizations around the country that submitted proposals.

 “We are pleased to join the Foundation and its Finding Answers program in working to eliminate disparities in the U.S. health care system,” said Weitzman, who is also an associate professor at the Yale Child Study Center. “The funds from this grant will help the Department of Pediatrics at Yale evaluate an intervention for depressed high-risk inner city mothers to learn whether it is effective in equalizing care for all our patients.”

Weitzman said evidence of racial and ethnic disparities in the care of depression is strong, with few minority patients being diagnosed and receiving treatment. This grant seeks to identify depressed mothers of young children by screening for depression during pediatric well-child care. “There is a significant link between child behavior problems and maternal depression and there is evidence that when maternal depression is adequately treated, child behavior problems improve,” she said. 

Weitzman hypothesizes that high-risk mothers may be more open to treatment when it is offered in a trusted setting, such as their pediatrician’s office, when mothers believe it will help their children and when treatment is offered in a non-threatening and easily accessible place such as their primary care provider’s office. As part of this project, brief on–site cognitive behavioral therapy will be offered along with psychopharmacologic evaluation.

“There is an urgent need to move beyond documenting the existence of health care disparities and start finding solutions that will eliminate them,” said Director of the Finding Answers Program Marshall H. Chin, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and the Center for Health and the Social Sciences. “With the joint effort of these grantees and the health care community, we will identify innovative, replicable and sustainable approaches to reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care.”

The results of Yale’s research will help Finding Answers and RWJF understand what works—or does not work—to improve health care for minority patients. The information Yale and the other 10 grantees provide to Finding Answers will include obstacles to and solutions for implementing a tested intervention, start-up and maintenance costs for the intervention, and staff training needs. Finding Answers will evaluate the results and related information and then inform health care stakeholders—doctors, hospitals and health plans—about promising interventions that demonstrate potential to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care.

Finding Answers: Disparities Research for Change is a research and tracking program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and based at the University of Chicago. The program is the cornerstone of the Foundation’s strategy to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care by 2008. To learn more about the program, please visit

Partners in this project include Kimberly Yonkers, M.D., associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale; Heather Howell and Margaret Briggs-Gowan, assistant professor, University of Connecticut Department of Psychiatry.

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