Skip Navigation

School Accolades

Closing the Gap in Health Care

e-Answers for Health: M. Chris Gibbons

M.Chris Gibbons

M. Chris Gibbons sees untapped potential in bringing electronic tools to bear on the problem of disparities in health care. And he wants to put those tools directly in the hands of patients, not just doctors.

In a recent evidence review for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Gibbons, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute, found evidence that certain Web resources and interactive multimedia programs can help patients with symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety, without the presence of a physician.

“The potential impact on disparities can be significant,” says Gibbons, MD, MPH ’97, author of the 2007 book eHealth Solutions for Healthcare Disparities, which explores how experts in medicine and technology and experts on health disparities can work together to close the gaps.

Struck by the twin facts that more than 160 million Americans use the Internet and that the number one topic of their Google searches is health, Gibbons wondered: Can electronic tools of any kind, designed specifically for patients, help them achieve better health outcomes?

Gibbons’ book examines cyber-strategies with the greatest potential for effective, equitable care and improved service delivery. He examines emerging roles for information technology in promoting weight loss, smoking cessation and other behavior changes, and in preventing cancer, HIV and other diseases.
In his more recent evidence review for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Gibbons evaluated outcomes of a variety  of electronic tools, including interactive, Web-based applications, personal monitoring devices, health-risk assessments and patient-decision aids delivered via cell phones and  other means.

Gibbons, an assistant professor in Health, Behavior and Society, concludes electronic tools may be helpful for some patients. Whether given by a device or a live physician, the content and timing of feedback about patients’ health concerns are key.

In February, Gibbons, whose work is gaining the attention of policymakers, received a Top Minorities in Research Science Award, in Medical Leadership, at the 24th Black Engineer of the Year STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Conference in Baltimore. When he first learned of the award, he recalled an episode from medical school.

“At one point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue,” he remembers. “My mother arranged a meeting with a young African-American doctor who was visiting our town. I didn’t know anything about the guy but … he welcomed me into his hotel room, and we talked. It was the most amazing thing. His name was Ben Carson [the legendary Hopkins neurosurgeon]. I knew then that I wanted not only to be a doctor but to go where others have never gone and leave a trail.”                                     

design element
Online Extras

Listen Now

Hear the Future

Dean Michael J. Klag surveys the future in a conversation with Johns Hopkins Public Health editor Brian W. Simpson.

Listen Now

Talk to Us

Amazed? Enthralled? Disappointed? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts on articles and your ideas for new stories:

Download the PDF

Get a copy of all Departments articles in PDF format. Read stories offline, optimized for printing.

Download Now (608KB)