Dear Friends and Health Equity Champions,
In 2020, the world has watched as the global pandemic and racial injustices dominated the news and put a spotlight on how racism and discrimination have shaped public policies, systems, and individual level access to health care and resources. For over a decade, I have been leading innovative health equity research that engages community members from underserved areas, but often operating within the socially constructed confines in which we use the buzzword “social determinants of health” without acknowledging the underpinning of racism and discrimination in creating systemic health inequities.
George Floyd’s young daughter Gianna “Gigi” said “Daddy changed the world,” and this statement rings true for the field of academic medicine too. Racism—especially anti-Black racism—has always permeated the institutions to which we look for expertise in medicine. George Floyd’s senseless murder by a convicted former police officer galvanized a worldwide movement and emboldened us to call out racism where we see it, rather than code-switching and avoiding conversations that make some people feel uncomfortable, such as when the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) questioned if systemic racism is real, essentially gaslighting a breadth of communities and people who have experienced it.
Since its founding, the Center for Health Equity Transformation’s (CHET) mission has been to lift health for all by exposing root causes of health inequities. We serve as a hub that pushes boundaries in research, education, workforce development, and community engagement to actualize that mission.
Over the last year, our team has reflected on the impact of our work against systemic racism and what more should be done to advance racial equity. This past year exposed massive gaps between community needs, academic research, and public policy through a health equity lens. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, our team and our work continues to evolve to listen to and meet the changing needs of the communities with which we work. In 2020, we held our inaugural Juneteenth celebration in collaboration with Feinberg’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which served as the catalyst for our expansion of antiracist work and celebration of Black joy. We have increased our involvement with local, state, and federal policymakers and made a conscious effort to lift community voices more than we ever have before.
As we look ahead to our ambitions for this year, we envision collaborating with artists and innovators to inspire changes that advance health equity, and we keep our long-term goal in mind: dismantle systemic racism to lift health for all. Recognizing that this change won’t happen overnight, CHET will take a multifaceted approach to our antiracist work:
- Launch a “Navigating Hostile Workplaces” series to equip people from marginalized backgrounds with the knowledge and skills they need to cope as they enter or exit toxic workplace cultures.
- Advocate for reproductive and birth justice by recognizing the continuum of maternal health, starting with access to comprehensive sexual health education and extending well beyond the postpartum period.
- Advocate for health and data justice.
- Center community members and their self-identified health needs in our research.
- Push boundaries and create innovative approaches to promote health equity through art and the humanities.
We thank you for your continued support of our work and being co-conspirators in our fight for health equity.
Melissa A. Simon, MD, MPH
Director, Center for Health Equity Transformation