National Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality appoints USF health disparities expert

For more than three decades, Adewale Troutman, MD, has tracked the social causes of health inequities in the United States, watching the awareness of key issues improve while the gaps in equality continue to widen.

His expertise in health disparities, along with a drive to fully understand why the differences exist, has earned Dr. Troutman national recognition, including an appointment in January to the national Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality, a group that reports directly to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Troutman joined USF’s College of Public Health last fall.

He directs the Public Health Practice and Leadership, the Center for Leadership in Public Health, and the Public Health Practice Masters of Public Health program.

“We are indeed fortunate that someone of Dr. Troutman’s experience, reputation and passion for improving health has chosen to join our faculty,” said Donna J. Petersen, MHS, ScD, dean of the USF College of Public Health.

“Dr. Troutman’s expertise and leadership is well recognized nationally and internationally. Just in the past few months he has been part of a U.S. delegation sent by the American Public Health Association to Cuba. We couldn’t have asked for anyone better to lead our public health practice initiatives.”

Prior to joining USF, Dr. Troutman directed the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, was associate professor at the University of Louisville, School of Public Health and filled the Frederick Douglas Visiting Professorship on Pan African Studies at the University of Louisville. He also serves on the executive committee of the National Academy for Health Equity.

Dr. Troutman sees the recent HHS appointment as a way to have a greater impact on the national effort to improve infant mortality.

“We, as a nation, don’t do as well as other nations, especially considering our advanced healthcare system,” Dr. Troutman said.

“The inequities are dramatically higher in the African-American population, about two-and-a-half times higher than in the white population. Some pockets are as much as six times higher.”

Dr. Troutman’s own research, as well as other widely accepted data, attributes this difference to socio-economic factors, pointing directly to access to good health care and insurance, he said.

“We’ve seen huge improvement in the technological aspects of keeping low-birth weight babies alive once they’re born,” he said.

“But we need improvement on the front end. It’s prevention. And that means increased access to good care and an intentional focus on addressing the social determinants of infant mortality.”

Another key role for Dr. Troutman at USF will be to direct the HRSA Public Health Training Center, which was funded last fall with a five-year, $3.25 million grant from the Health and Human Resources Administration. The training center will assess the learning needs and further develop the knowledge and skills of the state’s current and future public health professionals. USF was one of 27 accredited schools of public health and other public and non-profit institutions across the country – the only one in Florida – to receive such an award.

Dr. Troutman’s expertise at the national level is not new. In addition to being named to the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality, Dr. Troutman served on the HHS National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives for 2020. He also co-chairs the Advisory Committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on eliminating health disparities, the executive committee of the American Public Health Association and the National Board of Public Health Examiners.

Dr. Troutman earned his medical degree from the New Jersey Medical School and his master’s degree in public health from Columbia University. He also has a master’s degree in Black Studies from the State University of New York-Albany. He spent 13 years directing the emergency medicine services at United Hospital’s Medical Center in Newark, NJ.

His published research has focused on health disparities and health issues affecting African-Americans.

As an expert on public health issues, Dr. Troutman has been interviewed numerous times by the news media in both radio and television, including being guest expert on televised health panels. Dr. Troutman examined this issue of health disparities in detail three years ago, when he took part in the PBS documentary “Natural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?” which focused on how social conditions have a  profound effect on health and longevity, even more than medical care, behavior and genes.

Dr. Troutman has traveled the world on missions related to public health, including Angola, Zaire, Japan, Uganda, India, Austria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin, Nigeria, South Africa, and Cuba.

A product of humble beginnings and a risk of living out the bleak statistics for black youth, Dr. Troutman proved school counselors wrong when he went to college. Read more about his story.

“I grew up in a single-parent home in a low-income neighborhood in the South Bronx in a world of low expectations,” he said.

“Now I tell everyone ‘Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do.’ ”

Story by Sarah A. Worth, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications