Cook Center on Social Equity Receives $2.7 Million Grant For Race, Religion and Health Project

Professor Keisha Bentley-Edwards will lead a study designed to confront disparities in cardiovascular disease outcomes.
Professor Keisha Bentley-Edwards will lead a study designed to confront disparities in cardiovascular disease outcomes. Photo by Duke Photography

The Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity has received a $2,713,229 grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These funds will support a five-year study aimed at investigating the relationship between religion, spirituality and cardiovascular disease risks (obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression) in African Americans and serve as a catalyst for evidence-based interventions to support positive health outcomes for African Americans.

Although the occurrence of cardiovascular disease is similar between white and black Americans, the latter population is thirty percent more likely to die from the disease, making cardiovascular disease a dire health disparity for African Americans. Considering that African Americans report the highest level of religiosity than any other racial/ethnic group in the Unites States, religion and spirituality is a strong indicator for prevention and intervention efforts.

Professor Keisha Bentley-Edwards, associate director of research and director of the Health Equity Working Group at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center, serves as the project’s principal investigator.

Bentley-Edwards worked in collaboration with Professor William A. Darity Jr., founding director of the Cook Center and co-Investigator, along with faculty from the Duke Medical Center and the General Internal Medicine Department to create a comprehensive, mixed-methods approach to better understand the connections between race, religion and health in African Americans.

“Investigating African Americans' religion and spirituality as a tool for eliminating health disparities allows us to conduct research that is both precise and generalizable - which will be useful to researchers, practitioners and faith-based health initiatives,” Bentley-Edwards said.

“The addition of Bentley-Edwards as the first faculty member hired jointly by the Cook Center and the School of Medicine is critical to the center’s quest to build a strong research agenda and to understand and reduce health inequities,” Darity said.

“As director of the Health Equity Working Group and associate director of research at the Cook Center, Bentley-Edwards is central to sustaining the center’s long-term mission through extramural funding collaborations across the university,” Darity said. “One of the Cook Center’s critical goals is to examine the policy implications of health inequities and the relationship between exposure to racism and discrimination and health outcomes among members of stigmatized populations.”