Q & A with Bryan Batch: “Moving everyone toward better health”

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bryan C. Batch, MD, assistant professor of medicine (Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition), has a particular interest in racial disparities related to overweight, obesity, and diabetes.

“Growing up as a Black woman in North Carolina made me keenly aware of healthcare needs amongst women and African Americans and the disparities that exist,” she said. “My interest grew as I spent more time taking care of patients and witnessed racial disparities in morbidity and mortality related to chronic illness like type 2 diabetes.”

This spring, she’s been participating in the disparities curriculum supported by the Education Core of the Duke CTSA, which she said “is an excellent forum to discuss broad issues including basic concepts like the definition of disparities.”

What is the definition of “health disparities” and “healthcare disparities”?
Health disparities is a fairly simple concept—the NIH defines it as “a significant disparity in the overall rate of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity, mortality or survival rates in the population as compared to the health status of the general population.” The term “healthcare disparities” refers to differences in the quality of healthcare, but it can be defined differently depending on who you talk to and what their vantage point is. It encompasses a lot of complex issues that can’t be easily be captured in a quick definition.

What factors contribute to healthcare disparities?
There are lots of factors and we can think of them as existing in three different spheres: the health system, the patient, and the provider. By acknowledging that all three play a role, we can work together towards eliminating disparities. My goal is to better understand what we need to do to eliminate disparities in order to move everyone toward better health.

What sorts of things have you found through your research? What works?
That’s just it—you would think we would be farther along. There are many areas where we don’t know what works. My current research project is focused on race and gender disparities in overweight and obesity within the VA Healthcare system. My research goals are to determine the optimal design for behavioral obesity interventions for women and Blacks within VA and the best strategies for implementing those interventions. I hope to use the electronic health record to aid in delivery of the intervention.

Are you planning to attend Health Disparities Research Colloquium on April 17?
Yes! I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity to come together and get to know who is working on disparities, to build collaborations, and to hear different perspectives on what the goals should be for the field.

Why is healthcare disparities an important focus for Duke?
The demographics in the United States are rapidly changing; populations that are considered minority now will represent a larger proportion of individuals. If the focus of the health system is to provide the best care to all and to improve health for all, we need to understand the barriers that prevent us from achieving that mission.

For more information or to register for the Duke Health Disparities Research Colloquium, see https://www.dtmi.duke.edu/colloquium