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Dr. Bridgette Rice Urges Use of Nursing Science to Advance Policy and Practice in the Context of Social and Structural Determinants of Health

“When lives are at stake, gone are the days of knowing something and failing to take action on it.” 

Dr. Bridgette Brawner

Bridgette M. Rice, PhD, MDiv, APRN, FAAN is on a mission to elevate health equity and justice in nursing and health care, both nationally and internationally.  She is Associate Dean for Research and Innovation – a role she assumed June 1 - and is the Richard and Marianne Kreider Endowed Professor in Nursing for Vulnerable Populations at Villanova University M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing (FCN).

“I look forward to bringing my equity and justice insights to expand our comprehensive research portfolio,” Dr. Rice noted when her new role was announced in the summer. She has infused her passion in her work and mentoring of other researchers, while building capacity to support FCN’s scientific efforts and collaborations. Research is a critical advocacy tool, as she says, “to change the world, one community at a time.” Her philosophy aligns with FCN’s strategic plan aspiration to “Advance a bold and ambitious Nursing research agenda to impact science, education, practice and policy.”

Dr. Rice was the invited keynote speaker for the 2022 State of The Science Conference on Social and Structural Determinants of Health presented by the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science, an initiative of the American Academy of Nursing. That September 16 paper was subsequently published as “Using nursing science to advance policy and practice in the context of social and structural determinants of health” in Nursing Outlook and made available online October 16, 2023.

As she reviewed social determinants of health (non-medical factors that influence health outcomes, such as housing and food insecurity) and structural determinants of health (which create the social determinants, such as policies related to resource allocations), Dr. Rice notes, “With increasing attention to the importance of social and structural determinants, the hope is that more nurse researchers will engage in this scholarship. As gaps widen between the health ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’ there is a critical need to use nursing science to advance policy and practice in the context of social and structural determinants of health.”

Dr. Rice asserts that prevention is key and “Nurses are well-positioned to apply intersectional frameworks to their research, accounting for and working to redress injustices that contribute to unnecessary, avoidable morbidity, and mortality.”  She offers a three-pronged approach to advance policy and practice initiatives in contextually appropriate, culturally relevant ways on individual, social and structural levels.

She also continues to galvanize others to take meaningful action, including in two recent virtual presentations in October for Main Line Health’s Annual Research Day “Igniting a Passion for Nursing Research and Innovation” and for Grand Rounds for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, “Place-based Influences on Adolescent Mental Health.”

Dr. Rice has recently collaborated on studies and related publications on subjects including racial attitudes, alcohol use and mood disorders among Black Adolescents; adolescent HIV service delivery in southern Africa; and neighborhood factors impacting HIV care continuum participation, to name a few.

She is a co-investigator on a four-year grant “The Impact of Individual- and Neighborhood-Level Social Connectedness on Mental Health in Black Adults” from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD 1R01MD018502) and is the Evaluation Principal Investigator on the Philadelphia Alliance for Child Trauma Services (PACTS) III grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA 6H79SM084854).

In the Nursing Outlook article, Dr. Rice revisits her keynote remarks, ‘What we know is, in part, only as good as what we do with that knowledge. When lives are at stake, gone are the days of knowing something and failing to take action on it.’ We know what the issues are, and we know what to do; when are we going to do it?”