Methodist-Le Bonheur creates new role to reduce Mid-South health disparities

On June 29, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare announced a new leadership position dedicated to eradicating health disparities in the Mid-South.

Filling the role will be Sandra Madubuonwu. Her new title is a bit of a mouthful—senior director of social determinants of health and wellness—but the need for the work is clear.

Disparities in an individual’s life and community impact their health.

In Memphis, high rates of diabetes and chronic heart disease are a symptom. Inequity in basic needs like housing, education, transportation, environmental safety, food access, and regular healthcare access are the disease.

Madubuonwu will lead projects and initiatives to address these deeper issues underlying poor community health.
Sandra Madubuonwu, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare's new senior director of social determinants of health and wellness. (Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare) “MLH understands the impact of social disparities on health and the role of collaborative efforts to bring equity to the underserved in our community,” said Madubuonwu. “This is the right time to increase our strategies to impact the well-being of our entire community.”

The worse health outcomes and biggest gaps in resources plague whole communities including North and South Memphis and Orange Mound. Life expectancy in South Memphis is 13 years less than in wealthy, majority-white Collierville.

It isn’t coincidence that those same disinvested neighborhoods are historically black. Intentional policies and practices meant to maintain white social and economic supremacy have depressed majority-black communities since emancipation post-Civil War.

In her new role, Madubuonwu will head initiatives across the Methodist-Le Bonheur system to improve outreach to underserved communities in the Mid-South. She’ll develop a comprehensive strategy to address health disparities and identify causes of disparity.

For 11 years, Madubuonwu has focused on reducing disparities for parents and kids as head of Le Bonheur’s maternal and child health program. She holds a Masters of Science in nursing.

Dr. Albert Mosley, MLH’s chief mission integration officer, said MLH has long worked to reduce health disparities in the Mid-South. They’ve sponsored community health screenings, invested in community partnerships, and decreased barriers to access their services.

“The current COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need to reduce disparities in our community,” said Mosley.

People with chronic conditions and poor general health are at higher risk for COVID-19 disease and for suffering more severe and long-lasting symptoms. They're also at higher risk of death.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Cole Bradley.

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and graduate of the University of Memphis. Cole's worked locally as a researcher and community engagement strategist and began contributing to High Ground in Jan 2017.