During her fellowship year, Laura Richman will develop a book manuscript that examines the limits of medical approaches to reducing socially driven health disparities and the untapped potential of community resources and partnerships. She will examine factors that contribute to a narrow view of health disparities, including the moralization of illness and cognitive biases in how we tend to think about our own versus other’s behaviors.
Her project will analyze the divisive conventional debate over personal versus social responsibility for health. Richman contends that our biases toward medicalizing social problems leads to a prioritization of the clinical encounter and individual responsibility to improve health. In doing so, we draw attention and resources away from more sustainable, evidence-based solutions to reduce health disparities. The book will highlight strategies that have shown to be successful in addressing social determinants. Insights from several sources will inform her analysis: interviews with policy experts, healthcare professionals, and patient narratives; historical and current perspectives on health and illness, and data-driven analyses of policy solutions.
In addition to her focus on the book, Richman will continue her current research on the health effects of gentrification and eviction and the evaluation of social programs that aim to reduce opioid addiction.
Richman is an associate professor in the department of population health sciences at Duke University and is a faculty affiliate at the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research at the Duke Global Health Institute. She holds a PhD in psychology from the University of Virginia.