Central to public health—and the Mailman School’s mission—is ensuring equal access to conditions that ensure health and well-being for all. There is extensive evidence that a history of cumulative systemic disadvantage has resulted in significant harm, racialized disparities, and poor health for Black, Latinx, Indigenous and other people of color [BIPOC] in the US and throughout the world. We have a fundamental duty as public health educators, researchers scientists and practitioners to contribute to the dismantling of systemic racism that exists throughout the United States that allows this toxic situation to fester.
We recognize that we are falling short of our mission, especially as the U.S. history of racism is embedded within the field of public health and within our academic institutions. Even with Columbia Mailman’s long-standing dedication and leadership in advancing scientific understanding of the drivers of health inequity, applying this understanding to improving health for all, and making it a cornerstone of our students’ education; we recognize the need for a deeper commitment to undo systemic racism, first within our own institution and then beyond the walls of our School.
Forging a Path FORWARD
In summer 2020, the students of the Black and Latinx Student Caucus (BLSC) called for the Mailman School to grapple with and dismantle issues of institutional racism at the Mailman School and Columbia University overall. Dean Linda Fried and the School's senior leadership team launched Columbia Public Health FORWARD (Fighting Oppression, Racism and White Supremacy through Action, Research and Discourse) to address many of the issues raised by BLSC and other members of the community. FORWARD was developed as a vehicle to accelerate the transformation of our school into an antiracist, multicultural, and fully inclusive institution in all aspects of its culture and operations, as well as into a global leader in dismantling the toxic structures that continue to support racism and health inequities. Our shared goal is both to transform ourselves and our world, and to provide a model and roadmap for other academic institutions to follow suit.
Through FORWARD, we will take the concrete actions needed to realize our goals by building:
- An anti-racist institutional culture and environment
- A strong pipeline of BIPOC students into Columbia Mailman and then into the field of public health beyond the School.
- New cohorts of BIPOC faculty and staff who are fully supported and have the resources needed to launch their careers
- A broad program of authentic, active and ongoing engagements with local, marginalized communities
- A more robust school-wide health equities, systemic racism, and structural violence research effort
For a quick video overview of our FORWARD initiative, please see the below. A pdf of the presentation outlining FORWARD can be found here.