Harvard School of Public Health Launches New Initiative on Structural Racism and Health | New


Harvard’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights launched an initiative to study and address structural racism in public health with a virtual symposium on Tuesday.

The FXB Center, which is hosted by the Harvard School of Public Health, created the Structural Racism Initiative for Diversity with Equity program earlier this year to research “racism as a determinant of health, as a root cause of inequality in health, ”according to the website event.

To generate this research, the center hired a class of fellows, including three social epidemiologists, a medical sociology researcher, and a public health researcher and activist.

FXB Center executive director Natalia Linos said in an interview that she was excited about the diversity of the cohort, noting that four of the five identify as people of color.

“I hope our model of bringing together a group of scholars of color to work together and create some kind of community can be a model for academic centers,” Linos said.

The FXB Center has been working on STRIDE for a few years, according to Linos. The initiative was inspired by center director Mary T. Bassett, who served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for four years and worked to highlight and combat against structural racism in the city’s health system, Linos added.

“The FXB Center is the center that works on health and human rights, traditionally doing work on a global scale,” she said. “[Bassett] said it was time for us to think about health and human rights in this country, in the United States.

Tuesday’s STRIDE Symposium, “Anti-Racism in Public Health Policy, Practice and Research,” was the first in a series of discussions featuring Harvard professors as well as experts and advocates for public health.

HSPH Dean Michelle A. Williams welcomed attendees to the symposium, citing last year’s “National Report on Structural Racism”.

“This calculation has led my colleagues and I to declare racism a public health crisis and to look at what we can do in academia,” Williams said.

The symposium, which Linos said aimed to make connections from the present to the past and from the local to the global, began with a conversation about the history of racism affecting health and healthcare.

In this conversation, Professors Evelynn M. Hammonds and Khalil Gibran Muhammad discussed slavery, reconstruction and redlining.

“In order to understand how racism has become deeply entrenched in American institutions, you have to examine it historically, and public health and medicine are certainly institutions where this has certainly been true,” Hammonds said.

The following two panels explored the similarities between the experiences of ethnic minorities in the United States and those around the world.

The first panel of the symposium covered the effects of structural racism in the United States, United Kingdom and Brazil. Speakers, who included academics from HSPH, Drexel University and the National Health Service Race and Health Observatory in the UK, discussed the systemic damage of racism to public health as well as the need for innovation and local leadership to dismantle it.

The second panel, “Anti-Racism in Public Health Policies and Practice in the US,” with academics from HSPH, Georgia State University, and the American Medical Association, discussed the effects of racism on collecting and l analysis of data in the United States and ways to encourage anti-racism education nationwide.

After the symposium, Linos said she was “very, very satisfied” with the participation in the event and the audience engagement during the question-and-answer sessions.

“Our hope with this kind of work is to bring different audiences together,” Linos said. “We also want to make it accessible to community groups, who want to use some of this data for advocacy; we also want affected communities to feel like they are part of the conversation.

—Editor Cara J. Chang can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ CaraChang20.

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