Emphasis on Equity

October 17, 2022

A weeklong schedule of events organized by the Columbia Mailman School examined public health equity and inequity.

“As we’ve all experienced so acutely in the last few years, it is critical that public health takes an ever more effective and prominent role in moving the needle forward on promoting and supporting and accomplishing health equity and ending health disparities for all populations. That is our mission,” said Dean Linda P. Fried.

Public Health Equity Week began on October 10 with the launch of Global Mental Health (GMH)@Mailman, a hub for interdisciplinary research and education with a special focus on eliminating disparities. Kathleen J. Sikkema noted that the program would strive to foster equitable partnerships and projects that address structural factors that shape mental health, including poverty and racism.

That same day, members of the Lenape Center commemorated Indigenous Peoples Day with a discussion on how academic institutions can draw on Lenape epistemologies to reconstitute the knowledge production process. Separately, a book launch for Hope Over Fate: Fazle Hasan Abed and the Science of Ending Global Poverty by Scott MacMillan examined the life of the founder of BRAC, an international organization based in Bangladesh that empowers people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease, and social injustice.

On Tuesday, the Schools hosted a taping of the podcast Person Place Thing, hosted by Randy Cohen, former New York Times columnist and Late Night with David Letterman writer. Cohen interviewed Ashwin Vasan, New York City Health Commissioner and Columbia Mailman faculty member, who discussed one person, one place, and one thing that influenced his life and work.

On Wednesday, Mary Bassett, New York State Commissioner of Health, delivered the 2022 Isidore I. Benrubi Lecture. She made a public health case for reparations, arguing that addressing the Black-white wealth gap would reduce health disparities and boost the health of all Americans. “I hope that by linking reparations to health, a resource for well-being and prosperity, we can broaden the rationale for a national reparations program,” said Bassett.

The following day, members of the School’s FORWARD program took part in the Columbia University Irving Medical Center EnERGize Inaugural Staff Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Summit. Throughout the week, members of the School took part in Menstrual Equity Week, a cross-campus education, advocacy, and action event that focused on key menstrual health issues and recent policy developments.

The week concluded with a screening of The Skin You’re In, a documentary about racial health injustice with the film’s executive producer and writer, Thomas A. LaVeist, PhD, Dean of Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine.