Highlights: Health Equity

Young Children in North Carolina

Housing insecurity is associated with poor health, lower weight and developmental risks among young children. This team analyzed how North Carolina’s resources for child and family housing intersect with structural racism and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diagram of housing guide roadmap and usage, showing how a child would be affected.
The team’s housing guide helps care navigators to identify resources. (Image: From the team’s poster)

Team members conducted focus groups and family interviews, and reviewed empirical literature and existing policy. This work informed the team’s development of a comprehensive resource to be used by North Carolina Integrated Care for Kids (NC InCK) and others.

Two students flank a poster displayed at a conference.
Sophie Hurewitz and Ainsley Buck present a poster at the 2021 Academic Pediatric Association Region 4 Conference.

Seniors Ainsley Buck and Sophie Hurewitz took their research further through a project on equitable access to autism screening for kids.


Rural Health Services

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the challenges and health inequities faced by vulnerable populations. In rural Pamlico County, North Carolina, many residents find it hard to access medical care and emergency services.

This summer, four undergraduates spent nine weeks in Pamlico working with county officials and partner organizations to study gaps in services and come up with strategies to aid the most vulnerable.

Four students stand in front a building with a sign reading Pamlico County Health Department.
Adey Harris, Advika Kumar, Nick Haddad and Rujia Tie stand outside the health department. (Photo: Alicia Banks)

Through the Global Health Student Research Training Program, the students built on the work of a Bass Connections team to conduct a risk and vulnerability assessment for the county’s Disaster Recovery Coalition. They also assisted the health department in identifying gaps in services, and created a community outreach plan for a free health clinic to help residents access care.

Staff and students seated around a table watching a student presentation.
Students present their findings from a risk and vulnerability assessment to the county’s Disaster Recovery Coalition. (Photo: Alicia Banks)

Working closely with officials and community members, the students presented a range of evidence-based resources and solutions to help  residents address a variety of challenges.


Play Video about Four students seated on a bench outdoors.

Social Determinants

Over 80% of health outcomes in the U.S. are directly linked to social determinants of health, such as economic stability, education, food, neighborhood and physical environment. How can providers help patients meet their social service needs and improve integrated care?

Graphic showing a woman surrounded by icons representing health, transportation, food and nutrition, housing, location; background image shows aerial view of Durham, NC.
Social factors affecting a Durham resident’s health (Image: From 2019 team presentation)

Launched in 2018 with support from a Bass Connections Student Research Award, the Help Desk program trains Duke student volunteers to connect patients with social services in the Durham area. Volunteers participate in an intensive 25-hour training designed to help them make meaningful connections with patients, introduce them to resources and follow up at regular intervals to check in.

Help Desk has evolved to become a large-scale student-run initiative that encompasses three healthcare facilities, 16 faculty and healthcare leaders and advisors, three program coordinators, dozens of student members and over a thousand resources.

Screenshot of website homepage with text reading Welcome to Duke University Help Desk.
Students created a website to share the model and house a robust community directory of health and social services.

In 2021-2022, student leaders of Help Desk worked on scaling up the program and evaluating its training and impact, including training students to enter health fields with core competencies in the social determinants of health.


“The work we’ve done has prepared me to be a culturally competent doctor — someone who’s actively seeking ways to broaden my perspective about the communities I seek to work with.”
Portrait of Katherine Kutzer.
Katherine Kutzer
Class of 2021