Numerous chronic diseases are associated with substance use, including cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular and circulatory diseases, psychiatric disorders, and digestive disease. In the U.S., disparities in chronic diseases persist as a major public health issue. In many types of cancer, for example, mortality is highest among African Americans than all other racial and ethnic groups. For example, African American women are more likely to die of breast cancer than European American women. African Americans are also more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and die from prostate and stomach cancers. Latinx and American Indian/Alaskan Native women have greater incidence of cervical cancer, and African American women have the highest mortality from cervical cancer. Likewise, disparities in cardiovascular disease include a higher incidence of heart failure, stroke, and myocardial infarction among African American adults.
Substance use is a significant public health issue; however, population-based estimates of problematic alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD) use mask the disparities in use – and their health consequences – among societal groups experiencing marginalization, discrimination, and systemic racism that limits the achievement of health equity. Addressing substance use disparities is a critical step in reducing the disproportionate burden of associated diseases in disadvantaged communities; moreover, enhancing diversity in the workforce through ATOD training programs is a necessary strategy to make significant progress toward this goal.
The HEALTH-FAST Program is a targeted initiative to train talented doctoral scholars, postdoctoral fellows, and Early Stage Investigators with the ultimate goal of recruiting and retaining a strong ATOD research workforce that can mitigate ATOD use and the chronic health conditions that result. We are particularly focused on training scholars who are currently under-represented in the sciences, as having a diverse workforce in scientific research widens perspectives to promote scientific creativity and innovation, increases the likelihood of underserved populations participating in and benefiting from health-focused research, and enhances public trust.
The Helping Everyone Achieve a LifeTime of Health – Future Addictions Scientist Training (HEALTH-FAST) program provides educational, training, and research experiences to the future generation of ATOD addiction scientists, with a special focus on those underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social sciences. The HEALTH – FAST Program leverages a transdisciplinary approach to health-equity science with a focus on how substance use and abuse leads to chronic diseases that disproportionately affect health disparity populations.
The HEALTH-FAST program’s governing values mirror those of the HEALTH Research Institute at the University of Houston, which is home to this training program and several other national, state, and locally-funded health equity initiatives.
We are actively engaged in innovative and rigorous scientific inquiry that will generate new knowledge that exerts a sustainable impact on mitigating – and ultimately eliminating – health disparities.
Our collective impact is dependent on our capacity to partner with stakeholders to derive a shared vision that ultimately empowers community-embedded change agents who are equipped to improve their quality and length of life.
We are dedicated to working with our community to discover and promote sustainable solutions to real-world health challenges.