Dr. Girardin Jean-Louis Speaks on Sleep Health Equity at Congressional Briefing
When it comes to sleep health in the U.S., minorities and low-income communities have a sleep deficit compared to their white counterparts. Because of the importance of this imbalance, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) hosted its first congressional briefing on the subject, with Girardin Jean-Louis, Ph.D., distinguished professor and director of the Center for Translation Sleep and Circadian Sciences (TSCS) at the Miller School of Medicine invited as a speaker.
Sleep issues go beyond feeling tired: Poor sleep can be associated with health impairments and reduced quality of life. The congressional hearing served as a platform for members of Congress, staff and interested stakeholders to learn from an expert panel of sleep and circadian investigators about sleep health disparities, the various avenues to promote sleep health equity and recommended steps to reduce sleep inequity.
“The Miller School’s TSCS has an excellent track record in conducting stakeholder-engaged interventions to improve sleep and circadian health in minoritized groups,” Dr. Jean-Louis said. “It was fitting for the NSF to invite us to discuss the solution-focused approaches we have used to achieve sleep health equity. Our framework for studying disparities in sleep and circadian health, which received national recognition in 2022 [Science Magazine and NPR], has set the stage for implementation of sleep interventions at the community and future national level.”
Actionable Steps for Sleep Health Equity
Dr. Jean-Louis has focused on sleep equity for more than 20 years. His time at the Miller School leading the TSCS has brought effective campaigns to increase awareness of sleep disorders and circadian health. The center has stood out by emphasizing the importance of incorporating patient voices in the deployment of tailored sleep health literature in minority communities through health fairs and screenings in local areas such as barbershops, beauty salons and places of worship.
Dr. Jean-Louis emphasized these same approaches to Congress with his presentation, which began with examining the ubiquity of sleep health disparities and how they can be observed in all sectors of health systems and community centers. Establishing equitable partnerships with stakeholders is also essential in formulating strategies to develop and implement interventions. A public health campaign aimed at minority communities can educate on the importance of sleep and circadian health. Dr. Jean-Louis concluded by speaking on the importance of training the next generation of sleep researchers.
“The congressional briefing provided an excellent opportunity to discuss social determinants of sleep health while advocating for the implementation of solution-focused interventions,” Dr. Jean-Louis said. “Led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren [CA-18], we believe that Congress is in an excellent position to focus on our recommendations to develop mechanisms to support community-academic partnerships to achieve the goal of sleep health equity at the national level.”
Tailored Interventions in Sleep Disparities
Though the sleep field has made great strides, “more work needs to be done in addressing sleep health in communities beyond Black and Hispanic populations,” Dr. Jean-Louis said.
TSCS has built a solid infrastructure at the Miller School to support programs geared toward eradicating sleep and circadian health disparities in South Florida. Its Miami Sleep Festival brings together experts in sleep and circadian health and digital health equity, as well as other stakeholders. Additional programs, such as the Tailored Approach to Sleep Health Education, develop educational tools for sleep and sleep apnea in the Black community.
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia in older minority communities are also crucial for the TSCS. All these programs lead to the “ACT Now!” clinical trials to educate people of color on the importance of participating in trials to gather data that can be implemented in the local and national stages.