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Bridging the Gap: Q&A with Rhonda BeLue


Rhonda BeLueThrough her work exploring the ways that families and health care systems together influence chronic disease management, Rhonda BeLue, Ph.D., approaches health disparities from a global, cross-national perspective. BeLue’s current research portfolio includes a federally-funded, school-based obesity prevention program and a Fulbright Research Award to study diabetes management in Senegal.

As the incoming chair in the Department of Health Management and Policy, we asked BeLue about her work, teaching and the future at SLU.

SoJust: What are the similarities and differences in the way you might approach chronic disease management the U.S. and the global south?

BeLue: I have to incorporate and consider the influence of local culture, health care system structure and health policies that differ across contexts. For example, in the community that I work with in Senegal, a large majority of people are uninsured and pay for health care expenses out of pocket. Extended families often share a household, which requires different strategies for self-management compared to the U.S. where nuclear family households are more the norm.

SoJust: What is your favorite thing about teaching?

BeLue: Teaching and mentoring are not only ways to prepare students for future careers; mentoring students also serves as a learning opportunity for me. I have maintained long-term professional relationships with many of my students, and I really enjoy watching and advising them as they advance through their careers to serve their local communities, and then continue on to mentor the next generation.

SoJust: What community and university partnerships are you excited about in St. Louis?

BeLue: Most of my work involves partnerships with safety-net organizations that deliver health and wellness programs to under-served communities, such as federally-qualified health centers. SLU has long-standing ties with community-based organizations that work with underserved families. The College’s focus on social justice and cutting-edge health services research will support collaboration and innovation in strategies to eliminate health disparities among diverse communities globally.

This interview was originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of SoJust magazine, the College for Public Health and Social Justice's alumni magazine.