Renewing our goal to reduce Health Disparities
Nearly 30 years ago, when little was known about the origin and transmission of HIV/AIDS, the number of Latinas contracting the disease was steadily increasing. Nilda (Nena) P. Peragallo Montano, DrPH, RN, FAAN, who was teaching at the University of Central Florida, wondered what caused the disparity between Latinas and other groups, and whether something could be done about it. These questions led Peragallo Montano to develop and test an HIV/AIDS intervention for low-income, inner-city Latinas—a first step on a lifelong journey to reduce health disparities among Latinos and other minorities. Peragallo Montano brought this commitment to her position as dean of the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies. Shortly after her 2003 arrival, Dean Peragallo Montano and her colleagues began envisioning a first-class research center dedicated to understanding and addressing health disparities, the first of its kind to be housed in a school of nursing and health studies. In 2007 they were awarded a grant from the NIH to establish the Center of Excellence for Health Disparities Research: El Centro.
During its first five years El Centro developed a research infrastructure, built community and academic alliances, expanded health disparities research training with students from multiple disciplines, and conducted innovative randomized trials and pilot research. The renewal of the El Centro grant in 2012 for another five-year term will support new and ongoing research, training, and community engagement activities.
El Centro has expanded its priority populations. Whereas El Centro was established to conduct health disparities research focused on Hispanics living in the United States. This focus has extended to include other groups - African American, Caribbean Americans and sexual minorities - that are also disproportionately affected by the El Centro health foci, who share similar underlying root causes of those conditions, and who are not only highly represented in South Florida, but who also interact and overlap in this unique intercultural region where a sizable portion of the population belongs to multiple health disparities groups. El Centro also works to promote health capacity-building initiatives with Latin America and the Caribbean region whose people have similar culture, health practices and health problems as the people of South Florida.