IPHAN was developed as a response to the need for a greater focus on mass incarceration as a public health issue based on the outcomes of a conference that the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health organized in June of 2014.  IPHAN seeks to facilitate cross-institutional collaboration, and promote strengthening public health coursework, research, and advocacy related to carceral system reform.

Supported by the Tow Foundation, Mailman’s 2014 conference entitled, “A Public Health Approach to Incarceration: Opportunities for Action,” harnessed the strong interest for incarceration and public health-related research, education, and programmatic activity at Mailman and around the country. More specifically, it generated considerable energy from a roster of Deans, Program Heads, and Scholars representing over 50 schools and programs of public health. Afterwards, they provided important feedback, recommendations, and offers of collaboration for next steps regarding building and strengthening a national public health effort and action in this area. IPHAN has incorporated this feedback into its ongoing efforts to engage public health educators, researchers, and advocates on the issue of mass incarceration through various programs and activities.