Date: Wednesday, December 15th, 2021
9:00 am – 10:00 am Pacific Time
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Weekly Seminar, Zoom
Title: Structural racism, white supremacy, and the 2-edged sword of data: health inequities and the embodied truths sharply exposed by COVID-19 in context
The health inequities sharply exposed by COVID-19 – within and across countries – are profoundly shaped by long histories of societal injustice. They also reveal the sharp edges of the 2-edged sword of data: Edge 1 is “no data, no problem” (i.e., the suppression of data on health inequities), and Edge 2 is “problematic data, big problems” (i.e., harms brought about by harmful data analysis). In the US, COVID-19 – coupled with outrage about police violence — has called new attention to the embodied health impacts of structural racism, white supremacy, scientific racism, and economic injustice. In this presentation, I discuss COVID-19 and other health inequities in relation to the societal context of social injustice in the US and implications for critical work with data. Of note is how growing public recognition that structural problems require structural solutions is helping to advance long overdue changes in – as well as resistance to changing — the ideas and practices of major scientific, public health, and medical institutions in the US and other countries, and corresponding scientific journals and educational curricula.
Nancy Krieger is Professor of Social Epidemiology and American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor, in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) and Director of the HSPH Interdisciplinary Concentration on Women, Gender, and Health. She received her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1989. Dr. Krieger is an internationally recognized social epidemiologist, with a background in biochemistry, philosophy of science, and the history of public health, combined with over 35 years of activism linking issues involving social justice, science, and health. In 2004, she became an ISI highly cited scientist (reaffirmed: 2015 ISI update), a group comprising “less than one-half of one percent of all publishing researchers,” and in 2019 she was ranked as being “in the top 0.01% of scientists based on your impact” for both total career and in 2017 by a new international standardized citations metrics author database, including as #1 among the 90 top scientists listed for 2017 with a primary field of public health and secondary field of epidemiology (https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000384). In 2013 she received the Wade Hampton Frost Award from the Epidemiology Section of the American Public Health Association, and in 2015, she was awarded the American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship, and re-awarded its renewal in 2020; also in 2020, she was awarded the American College of Epidemiology’s “Outstanding Contributions to Epidemiology” award, and she and her team received the 2020 American Journal of Epidemiology “Paper of the Year” award for their study on historical redlining and cancer stage at diagnosis (the first ever study on this issue). In 2021, she was appointed as member of the UNESCO International Scientific Committee for the Slave Route Project: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage.
Informed by an analysis of the history and politics of epidemiology and public health, Dr. Krieger’s work addresses three topics: (1) conceptual frameworks to understand, analyze, and improve the people’s health, including her ecosocial theory of disease distribution, focused on embodiment and equity; (2) etiologic research on societal determinants of population health and health inequities, including structural racism and other types of adverse discrimination; and (3) methodologic research to improve monitoring of health inequities. She is author of Epidemiology and The People’s Health: Theory and Context (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2011), Ecosocial Theory, Embodied Truths, and The People’s Health (OUP, 2021) and editor for the OUP series “Small Books Big Ideas in Population Health” (starting with Political Epidemiology & The People’s Health, by Jason Beckfield, OUP, 2018; Climate Change & The People’s Health, by Sharon Friel, OUP, 2019; and Critical Epidemiology & The People’s Health by Jaime Brielh, OUP, 2021). She also is editor of Embodying Inequality: Epidemiologic Perspectives (Baywood Press, 2004) and co-editor, with Glen Margo, of AIDS: The Politics of Survival (Baywood Publishers, 1994), and, with Elizabeth Fee, of Women’s Health, Politics, and Power: Essays on Sex/Gender, Medicine, and Public Health (Baywood Publishers, 1994). In 1994 she co-founded, and still chairs, the Spirit of 1848 Caucus of the American Public Health Association, which focuses on links between social justice and public health.