Dr. El-Sayed Gives Second Racism as a Public Health Threat Lecture
May 25, 2021 9:00 AM
The killing of George Floyd in May of 2020 inspired widespread protests against racism and police brutality in the United States. As a response to that killing and many others across the country, the Division of Public Health at the University of Utah instituted the “Racism as a Public Health Threat” lecture series, which seeks to connect institutional and societal racism with negative health outcomes for communities.
The May 2021 Racism as a Public Health Threat lecture featured Abdulrahman El-Sayed, MD, PhD as its key speaker. In his remarks, Dr. El-Sayed spoke of the effects of poverty and race on a number of health outcomes, and shared insights from his long career in public health as a former executive director of the Detroit Health Department, author, podcaster, and Michigan gubernatorial candidate.
As part of his speech, Dr. El-Sayed urged public health professionals and policy-makers to remember the importance of starting with communities in approaching both racism and health promotion, saying: “Public health is about context--and if public health is about context, then we ought to be focused on the places that people live, work, pray, and play.” Speaking of the murder of George Floyd, he cautioned against adopting an attitude that a summer of protests can correct the systemic racism found in healthcare and justice systems. “We have to resist those narratives,” he said, “and we have to check them and call them out wherever we see them.”
Following Dr. El-Sayed’s call to action, the lecture featured a panel of local healthcare and equity representatives, including University of Utah Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Mary Ann Villarreal, PhD, who moderated the panel; U Health’s Associate Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Family Medicine professor José E. Rodríguez, MD, FAAFP; and Ashley Cleveland, MCMP, Human Rights Commissioner for Salt Lake City.
The online lecture had over 250 attendees, and many who attended praised the lecture as one of the clearest and most compelling arguments they had heard for productive action in combating racism at the public health level. For those who missed the lecture or wish to revisit the conversation, an online recording is available here.The next Racism as a Public Health Threat Lecture will take place in October 2021 and will feature Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH of Boston University.