Health is a fundamental human right. In all that we do, Columbia Mailman School strives to advance health equity, or the state in which every person has equal opportunity to achieve their highest attainable level of health. Our research, education, and programs address health disparities, which are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, and disability experienced by populations due to social determinants of health, or the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age that shape health and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life, such as economic systems or racism and discrimination (WHO definition). These determinants play a major role in exposure to factors that affect the ability to be healthy, from lack of nutritious food and opportunities to exercise, to inadequate access to education and housing, to fair pay and exposure to poverty and violence.
Health equity is necessary to achieve our vision of a healthy and just world. Efforts to advance health equity are woven throughout our all aspects of work. Our faculty include expert authorities on gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, global health, disability, mass incarceration, homelessness, and environmental justice, among many other issues.
Our commitment to health equity dates back to foundational years of our School. Ray Trussell, PhD, director of the School from 1955 to 1968, and Jack Elinson, PhD, the department’s first chair, founded the Sociomedical Sciences department, which was the first of its kind at any institution in the United States with a mission to develop solutions to address disparities in health experienced due to determinants such as race, gender, age, and sexuality.