Black lives matter. The events of the past few months have made clear how important it is to not only say these words, but also to re-evaluate our work to ensure that we are contributing to addressing racism and redressing historic inequities. This summer has been full of emotions and hard reflections, as we have observed the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color, the repeated acts of violence against Black people by the police, and the outpouring of anger and frustration through national protests. As a department, we are compelled to look both outward and inward to consider both our responsibilities and our opportunities to be part of not only conversations, but also actions.
Racism is a population health issue. Racism is a fundamental driver of all of the factors that we think of as the social determinants of health – wealth, housing, employment, education, and social support systems, to name a few. In addition, racism itself contributes to poor health outcomes, via stress and weathering, distrust in health systems, and implicit bias in health care decision making. As population health scientists, it is our duty to understand how racism impacts health outcomes, and to address racism and racial inequities in the health care system through evidence-based approaches.
We also have an obligation as an academic department to strive toward a diverse faculty, staff and student population, and to ensure that all members of our department are given the support they need to succeed in their careers. Diversity in our academic community is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the best thing to do, as diversity contributes to innovation and improves our science. We want the next generation of population health scientists to reflect the diversity of our national population, and to be prepared to take on the challenge of addressing racism and racial inequities.
As a department, we have started an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion task force, which will lead the Department of Population Health Sciences in the following objectives:
- Recruit a diversity faculty, staff and trainee population
- Create a safe and inclusive department where individuals from all backgrounds can succeed
- Support and encourage research that addresses health inequities and that engages diverse communities
- Train the next generation of population health scientists to recognize and address inequities and health disparities
- Review departmental policies to reflect our commitment to diversity and inclusion
- Increase community engagement through service and action
- Be leaders for health equity, diversity and inclusion in the University of Utah health system, broader university, and our professional societies
We hope you will join us as work toward realizing these objectives. For more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.