Dr. Thomas LaVeist is a leading researcher on the topic of health disparities and the social determinants of health, including areas such as U.S. health and social policy, the role of race in health research, social factors contributing to mortality, longevity, and life expectancy, and the utilization of health services in the United States. He is the Weatherhead Presidential Chair in Health Equity and dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Dr. LaVeist’s research and writing has focused on three broad thematic research questions: 1) The social and behavioral factors that predict the timing of various related health outcomes (e.g. access and utilization of health services, mortality, entrance into nursing home; 2) The social and behavioral factors that explain race differences in health outcomes; and 3) The impact of social policy on the health and quality of life of African Americans.
LaVeist’s considerable experience in health disparities has been instrumental in the advent of COVID-19, which has been shown to impact minority communities much more severely. He has been a fervent voice in national media calling attention to this issue and was named as a co-chair of the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Through the task force and through his own social marketing campaign called The Skin You’re In: Coronavirus and Black America, LaVeist is working to dispel myths and raise awareness in the Black community about protecting against COVID-19. He is also seeking a new normal that will create lasting change to significantly reduce health disparities in the state and the region.
LaVeist came to Tulane from the Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University, where he was the chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management. He also spent 25 years at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where he was the William C. and Nancy F. Richards Professor in Health Policy and the director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions.
He holds a doctorate in medical sociology from the University of Michigan and is an elected member of the prestigious National Academy of Medicine. He was also executive producer of the documentary The Skin You’re In, which explores the disparities between black and white health in America.
Areas of Expertise (11)
Health disparities by race and ethnicity
Social Determinants of Health
2014 Associated Black Charities
Article of the Year – American Journal of Public Health
Innovation Award (professional)
National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) 2008
University of Michigan: Ph.D., Medical Sociology
University of Michigan: M.A., Sociology
University of Maryland Eastern Shore: B.A., Sociology
- National Academy of Medicine
Media Appearances (10)
60 Black Health Experts Urge Black Americans to Get Vaccinated
The New York Times print
Thomas LaVeist, dean of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, authored a New York Times op/ed signed by 59 other Black health experts from the National Academy of Medicine urging Black Americans to get vaccinated.
Vaccination Rates Lag In 3 Gulf States: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana
National Public Radio radio
Dean Thomas LaVeist, co-chair of the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, speaks with NPR about ways to increase vaccination rates among vulnerable communities in the South. "The reason that we're not treating COVID like any other virus, like we treat smallpox and mumps, is that it became politicized," he says.
Race and ethnicity data missing for nearly half of coronavirus vaccine recipients, federal study finds
The Washington Post print
Thomas A. LaVeist, dean of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, called the vaccination data collection “a bit of a muddled mess.” In Louisiana, sites used different formats to collect information, resulting in lots of missing data or people reporting their race as “other,” said LaVeist, co-chair of Louisiana’s covid-19 health equity task force, convened by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). “One location instead of saying ‘African American,’ it just said ‘African,’ ” LaVeist said. “That may have been a typo, but we figure a lot of African Americans didn’t check the ‘African’ box. They checked other or left it blank.” The state was working to fix the problem by standardizing what information should be gathered, but he said, “we need to have national standardization in how the data is collected and what data needs to be in there.”
Equity ‘should be a requirement, our tax dollars paid for what's in the vial’
Dean of the Tulane University School of Public Health, Dr. Thomas Laveist, join Stephanie Ruhle to explain why equal access needs to play a more serious role in the vaccine distribution process.
Covid-19 Clinical Trials Aren’t Very Diverse and That’s a Problem
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine Dean Thomas LaVeist, who also leads the Louisiana Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force, said racial diversity isn’t enough. Age and gender need to be factors, too. The pandemic’s scale means that even if just a small percentage of subjects have an adverse reaction to a drug or vaccine, that could mean millions of people. “You need to have a study representative of the people actually using the drug,” he said. “In this case, that’s everyone.”
‘At Your Age, It’s the Vaccine or the Grave’
The New York Times print
“The distrust among Black Americans comes from a real place and to pretend it doesn’t exist or to question whether it’s rational is a recipe for failure,” said Thomas A. LaVeist, an expert on health equity and dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University. Dr. LaVeist has been advising Louisiana officials on ways to increase vaccination rates.
Southern Diet Blamed For High Rates Of Hypertension Among Black Americans
National Public Radio online
What it all comes down to, for Thomas LaVeist, a dean and professor of health policy and management at Tulane University, "is the fact that diet is cultural." To truly untangle the relationship between disease and the Southern diet, he says, you have to start by understanding African-American foodways...
Being Black in America Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
The Atlantic online
These kinds of changes in body chemistry aren’t limited to people living in poverty. Even well-off black people face daily racial discrimination, which can have many of the same biological effects as unsafe streets. Thomas LaVeist, the dean of Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, has found, for example, that even among people earning $175,000 a year or more, blacks are more likely to suffer from certain diseases than whites are...
Former Johns Hopkins director named dean of Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
Former Johns Hopkins director Thomas LaVeist has been named the new dean of Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, according to a news release sent out by the university on Tuesday (May 1)..
Atlanta Struggles To Meet MLK’s Legacy On Health Care
“It’s a constellation of things,” said Thomas LaVeist, chairman of the department of health policy and management at the George Washington University’s school of public health in Washington, D.C. “African-Americans couldn’t own land, wealth couldn’t transfer from one generation to the next. Those were advantages [for whites] that were formed decades ago”...
The Role of Marital Status in Physical Activity Among African American and White MenAmerican Journal of Mens Health
2016 Racial differences in physical activity among men are well documented; however, little is known about the impact of marital status on this relationship. Data from the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2006 was used to determine whether the association of race and physical activity among men varied by marital status. Marital status was divided into two categories: married and unmarried. Physical activity was determined by the number of minutes per week a respondent engaged in household/yard work, moderate and vigorous activity, or transportation (bicycling and walking) over the past 30 days. The sample included 7,131 African American (29%) and White(71%) men aged 18 years and older. All models were estimated using logistic regression. Because the interaction term of race and marital status was statistically significant (p < .001), the relationship between race, physical activity, and marital status was examined using a variable that reflects the different levels of the interaction term. After adjusting for age, income, education, weight status, smoking status, and self-rated health, African American married men had lower odds (odds ratio = 0.53, 95% confidence interval = [0.46-0.61], p < .001) of meeting federal physical activity guidelines compared with White married men. Possible dissimilarities in financial and social responsibilities may contribute to the racial differences observed in physical activity among African American and White married men.
Distinguishing the race-specific effects of income inequality and mortality in U.S. metropolitan areas.International Journal of Health Services
2014 In the United States, the association between income inequality and mortality has been fairly consistent. However, few studies have explicitly examined the impact of race. Studies that have either stratified outcomes by race or conducted analyses within race-specific groups suggest that the income inequality/mortality relation may differ for blacks and whites. The factors explaining the association may also differ for the two groups. Multivariate ordinary least squares regression analysis was used to examine associations between study variables. We used three measures of income inequality to examine the association between income inequality and age-adjusted all-cause mortality among blacks and whites separately. We also examined the role of racial residential segregation and concentrated poverty in explaining associations among groups. Metropolitan areas were included if they had a population of at least 100,000 and were at least 10 percent black. There was a positive income inequality/mortality association among blacks and an inverse association among whites. Racial residential segregation completely attenuated the income inequality/mortality relationship for blacks, but was not significant among whites. Concentrated poverty was a significant predictor of mortality rates in both groups but did not confound associations. The implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed.
Racial segregation, income inequality, and mortality in US metropolitan areasJournal of Urban Health
2011 Evidence of the association between income inequality and mortality has been mixed. Studies indicate that growing income inequalities reflect inequalities between, rather than within, racial groups. Racial segregation may play a role. We examine the role of racial segregation on the relationship between income inequality and mortality in a cross-section of US metropolitan areas. Metropolitan areas were included if they had a population of at least 100,000 and were at least 10% black (N = 107). Deaths for the time period 1991-1999 were used to calculate age-adjusted all-cause mortality rates for each metropolitan statistical area (MSA) using direct age-adjustment techniques. Multivariate least squares regression was used to examine associations for the total sample and for blacks and whites separately. Income inequality was associated with lower mortality rates among whites and higher mortality rates among blacks. There was a significant interaction between income inequality and racial segregation. A significant graded inverse income inequality/mortality association was found for MSAs with higher versus lower levels of black-white racial segregation. Effects were stronger among whites than among blacks. A positive income inequality/mortality association was found in MSAs with higher versus lower levels of Hispanic-white segregation. Uncertainty regarding the income inequality/mortality association found in previous studies may be related to the omission of important variables such as racial segregation that modify associations differently between groups. Research is needed to further elucidate the risk and protective effects of racial segregation across groups.
The association of doctor-patient race concordance with health services utilizationJournal of Public Health Policy
2003 We examined a national sample of African-American, white, Hispanic, and Asian-American respondents to test the hypothesis that when patients are race concordant with their physicians, they are more likely to utilize health services. The analysis used the 1994 Commonwealth Fund Minority Health Survey to construct a series of multivariate models. Using three dimensions of health services utilization, we found support for the hypothesis. Compared to patients whose regular doctors are of a different race, patients who are of the same racial or ethnic group as their physicians were more likely to use needed health services (OR=.62; 95% CI .46, .81); were less likely to postpone or delay seeking care (OR=.78; 95% CI .65, .94); and reported a higher volume of use of health services (OR=2.68; 95% CI 2.07, 3.45). Analysis within race-specific sub-samples found this pattern to be most consistent among white and African-Americans and less prevalent among Hispanic and Asian-Americans. Adjusting the models for health status and a variety of other known predictors of health care utilization did not substantially affect the relationship between doctor-patient race concordance and health services use.
Is doctor-patient race concordance associated with greater satisfaction with care?Journal of Health and Social Behavior
2002 We examined a national sample of African American, white, Hispanic, and Asian American respondents to test the hypothesis that doctor-patient race concordance is predictive of patient satisfaction. Our analysis examined racial/ethnic differences in patient satisfaction among patients in multiple combinations of doctor-patient race/ethnicity pairs. Additionally, we outline the determinants of doctor-patient race concordance. The analysis used the 1994 Commonwealth Fund Minority Health Survey to construct a series of multivariate models. We found that for respondents in each race/ethnic group, patients who had a choice in the selection of their physician were more likely to be race concordant. Whites were more likely to be race concordant with their physician compared to African American, Hispanic, and Asian American respondents. Among each race/ethnic group, respondents who were race concordant reported greater satisfaction with their physician compared with respondents who were not race concordant. These findings suggest support for the continuation of efforts to increase the number of minority physicians, while placing greater emphasis on improving the ability of physicians to interact with patients who are not of their own race.