Sunday, November 22, 2015

Black Lives Matter

I've taken a long break from writing as I was on leave last year. But this article in the Epi Monitor was something that I wanted to post about as I've been thinking a lot about the responsibilities of those of us in public health to work deeply and meaningfully on what we know are important causes of poor health. Nancy Krieger's 2011 book, "Epidemiology and the People's Health", and her chapter about the various strains of social epidemiology first got me thinking about radical epidemiology. The reason I had gotten into epidemiology in the first place was because I wanted to learn answers to questions I felt I needed to know the answer to in order to contribute to solving some serious problems in the world. Nancy's book and that chapter in particular really got me thinking about the tools we have in epidemiology and the types of questions that have historically been asked by epidemiologists and how those do not necessarily reflect what is important for health.

Take, for example, our usual treatment of race and socioeconomic status. Both factors are often considered "confounders" - nuisance variables that we attempt to remove the effect of when we are examining the relations between an exposure and outcome. We do this because race and socioeconomic status are hugely important contributors to many health risks (exposures) and many health outcomes. But instead of actually designing interventions to actually improve socioeconomic status or reduce racism or inequality, we examine other factors and whitewash the effects of these "confounders."

I am gratified to see this push within epidemiology and public health to actually study the effects of racism and design interventions to change our society (and ourselves).