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Maryland: Activities Recognizing 400 Years of Inequality

The University of Maryland School of Public Health has several activities and publications relevant to the 400th anniversary of the arrival in America of the first enslaved people from West Africa. They include:

Dr. Stephen Thomas, professor, published an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health highlighting the pervasive and lasting influence of racism in the fields of medicine and public health. Ms. Erica Casper co-authored the editorial.

Based on racist rhetoric that Black people are “less than” human or even “medically different from whites and so in need of special treatment,” Black bodies were frequently used by White doctors for dissection, surgery and bedside demonstrations.

It is then, Dr. Thomas contends, that Black people began to distrust and fear medicine. This fear, compounded with unequal care stemming from the dehumanization of Black people, led to health disparities that persist today. Evidence has shown that racial and ethnic minorities have lower life expectancies and suffer more from numerous health conditions than White individuals in the U.S.

Read complete AJPH editorial.

Dr. Thomas’ research and community engagement activities aim to expose and eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. He is the director of the School of Public Health’s Center for Health Equity, which will host an upcoming event on November 1st, “What Black Barbers Say to Scientists: ‘No Research on Us Without Us’”: An Innovation Design Studio on Cancer Clinical Trials and the Role of Black Barbershops and Salons in the Recruitment and Retention of African Americans. The event will bring together barbers and stylists who serve the African American community and have been part of the HAIR network (Health Advocates in Reach and Research) to explore the role that they play in increasing diversity in cancer clinical trials research.

With support from the  National Institutes of Public Health (NIH) -National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), Dr. Thomas and the Maryland Center for Health Equity have provided formal training so that barbers and stylists could become lay health advocates with a focus on preventing colon and prostate cancer through age appropriate screening and lifestyle behavior change and they have recently established the The National Association of Black Barbershops and Salons for Health, Inc. This 501©3 organization will mobilize black barbershops and salons across the nation as venues for health promotion and to set best practice standards for raising awareness about and participation in biomedical clinical trials, especially prostate, colon and other cancers that disproportionately impact African Americans.

A special lecture by Dr. Sacoby Wilson, associate professor and director of the Program on Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health, will give a lecture titled “Environmental Racism and Slavery in 21st Century Jim Crow America: Stories of Resistance, Hope, and Change” on October 24, 2019. Sponsored by the UMD Baha’i Chair for World Peace, the lecture will describe current efforts in U.S. politics to weaken environmental laws and regulations and implement economic policies that will drive additional environmental injustice and health problems in communities currently impacted by environmental racism and slavery and expose other groups on the social, economic, and political margins to environmental injustice.