February 2015 Health Disparities Career Panel Recap

By | May 28, 2015

Members of the panel sit at a long tableThe Student Engagement Sub-committee of the Health Disparities Work Group held a career panel on Friday, February 20, 2015. The panel aimed to give students an idea of challenges in the field, future steps, and why these careers are crucial to improving health and well-being for all.

For those of you that were unable to make the event, here are four key points from the discussion:

Health inequalities over health disparities
The term “health inequalities” rather than “health disparities” considers the structural and institutional factors that create inequalities and keep them in place. When defining health inequalities, we need to not only examine determinants of health but how we define health itself. Health is not simply the absence of disease, but an overall physical and mental well-being. Health inequalities represent social determinants of health and institutional factors that result in residents of one Minneapolis zip code having a longer life expectancy than those in another zip code.

Have the hard conversations
People are uncomfortable talking about institutional racism, but it has to happen. Do not be afraid to start difficult conversations. People are uncomfortable with their own role in health inequities, but without these conversations necessary structural changes will never occur. Right now institutional racism and inequality is seen as an elephant in the room. Stigma must be addressed head on in order to begin the policy change that is necessary to eliminate health inequalities.

Authentic engagement is invaluable
Build relationships with as many people as you can. By becoming involved with community organizations, you will gain new perspective and learn from the community with whom you are working.

Take the time to listen to the community. As academics, it is easy to become removed and take community members for granted. In most cases, community members are the experts on what that community needs. It can be hard to set your academic ego aside, but do the things that might scare you. They can be the most rewarding.

Push for health inequality conversations to happen in the core curriculum
Health inequalities are not mechanisms to control for, but issues that need to be discussed in the core curriculum. Health inequalities are seen as a separate discipline, but they affect everyone. All students in the School of Public Health need to have an understanding of why health inequalities exist and why they persist.

~ Post by Hannah Gary

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