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The Yale and Slavery Research Project

A look at contributions and commitment from YSPH to address the public health consequences of anti-Black racism, racial discrimination, and the legacy of slavery.
In announcing the establishment of the Yale and Slavery Working Group on October 14, 2020, Yale University President Peter Salovey stated,

"To understand where we are today and to move forward as a community, we must study the history of our university. As an American institution that is 319 years old, Yale has a complex past that includes associations, many of them formative, with individuals who actively promoted slavery, anti-Black racism, and other forms of exploitation. We have a responsibility to explore this history, including its most difficult aspects; we cannot ignore our institution’s own ties to slavery and racism, and we should take this opportunity to research, understand, analyze, and communicate that history."

As Yale University continues to understand and address its historical ties to slavery and marks a milestone with the publication of “Yale and Slavery: A History,” we seek to highlight some of YSPH’s efforts to address the public health consequences of anti-Black racism, racial discrimination, and the legacy of slavery.

At YSPH, one of our core values is justice. We commit to advancing health equity and social justice and to working for equal access to wellness, health, and opportunity for all persons, focusing on the structurally marginalized communities within society. This is manifested throughout our teaching and training, research and scholarship, and community-engaged practice.

Teaching and Training

  • All incoming MPH students are required to take a core course called “Social Justice and Health Equity” (EPH 507). This course outlines the social and structural determinants related to health inequities in the United States and globally. Conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and empirical approaches to understanding social justice and health equity are explored, focusing on health determinants, including health care, social class, poverty, oppression and power, stigma and discrimination, and neighborhood and social factors. The course takes a multidisciplinary approach, integrating methods and research from epidemiology, social sciences, and medicine to explore the individual, interpersonal, community, and societal influences that lead to healthy and unhealthy outcomes. There is a particular focus on anti-Black racism and the legacy of slavery.
  • We have developed several concentrations for students to pursue that focus on advancing social justice and health equity for marginalized and minoritized populations. The concentrations include U.S. Health Justice, Climate Change and Health, and Global Health. Each concentration requires students to engage in an applied practice experience, allowing students to apply skills and knowledge gained in the classroom in a real-world setting.
  • U.S. Health Justice Concentration

    The U.S. Health Justice Concentration prepares students from any YSPH department to analyze and address systems and processes that perpetuate health injustice in the United States, including how past and present systems of privilege and power related to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and other identities, create unequal burdens on health that are avoidable and unjust. Students will develop tools to analyze public health research methods, discourse, and practice using a health justice framework and develop skills in organizing, advocacy, and policy. Though not limited to Connecticut, the concentration emphasizes local health needs and partners with local organizations working to advance health justice.
  • Climate Change and Health Concentration

    In the Climate Change and Health Concentration, students confront the historical legacy of structural racism and discrimination on perpetuating climate injustice and health inequities for marginalized and minoritized communities. They develop research and policy tools to address climate change’s impacts on population health and reduce the adverse health impacts of climate change in a just and equitable manner.
  • Global Health Concentration

    Grounded in the principle of decolonizing public health, the Global Health Concentration emphasizes an integrative problem-solving approach to global health issues and tackling diseases and conditions that affect populations worldwide. Students who complete this concentration are well prepared for positions in various organizations—public and private, national, bilateral, and multilateral—dedicated to global health challenges.

The Research Education Institute for Diverse Scholars

YSPH is committed to training the next generation of scholars from diverse backgrounds. The Research Education Institute for Diverse Scholars (REIDS) training program, funded by the National Institutes of Health, aims to increase the number and impact of racial and ethnic minority researchers dedicated to reducing HIV inequities in communities of color, with particular emphasis on early career faculty and post-doctoral researchers. Through exposure to cutting-edge approaches in community-based implementation science, continued support through professional networks, and quality mentorship, REIDS is designed to have a demonstrable impact on Scholars, their organizations, and communities. The program takes a professional life course perspective to foster scientific network building, resource sharing, and support to Scholars throughout their academic careers. Entering its 14th year, the 2-year fellowship program has trained over 60 young faculty of color, with 80% identifying as Black/African American.

Research and Scholarship

Our faculty, staff, and students are engaged in innovative, collaborative, cutting-edge research, addressing the world’s most pressing public health challenges. Here, we highlight examples of work focused on reducing health inequities rooted in structural racism, discrimination, and the legacy of slavery.

  • The Substances and Sexual Health (SASH) Lab : The SASH Lab at Yale is focused on conducting and disseminating strengths-based youth substance use and HIV prevention research. The lab’s mission involves creating programs and solutions that are tailored for youth and families in urban communities, highlighting the role of race and gender in health outcomes, and mentoring the next generation of strengths-based researchers from underrepresented backgrounds. The SASH Lab research priorities include: (1) reducing substance use/misuse among racial-ethnic minority youth; (2) preventing sexually transmitted infections and HIV incidence among racial-ethnic minority youth; and (3) developing prevention initiatives and programs that are shaped by the voices of racial-ethnic minority youth.
  • The Lived Experiences Igniting Transformations in Health (LEITH) Lab : The lab aims to put people and lived experiences first within scientific discoveries, biomedical approaches, and healing initiatives to achieve racial health equity in rare and neurodegenerative diseases like ALS. The LEITH Lab identifies and critiques structural and systemic concerns that widen health disparities and seeks to create solutions to improve representation, access, care, and research in the rare neurodegenerative and genetic disease space. Part of the lab's mission is to advance anti-racist research equipped to understand, measure, and intervene on the impact of race, racism, and related intersections in shaping rare neurodegenerative diseases and genetic disease disparities. The Black Genome Project is an example of this work. The mission of the Black Genome Project is to understand how genetic research impacts Black communities and how Black communities value their genomes and genetic data. Using research methods that include members of the community on the research team and through the study of individual people and community culture, the project aims to create a space for Black people to understand genetic diversity and to evaluate, learn, and take ownership over the future of precision public health and genomic medicine that have historically been impacted by structural racism.
  • Housing and Health Equity Lab : The lab is focused on understanding the population health implications of the current affordable housing crisis, and more broadly examining the mechanisms and processes through which housing access contributes to health and well-being. The lab’s research also considers the health implications of an ongoing history of racially discriminatory housing and urban policies that have constrained housing access for non-white Americans. As such, they consider housing as a mechanism through which racial disparities in population health are produced and reinforced. Ultimately, the lab’s research seeks to inform policy interventions to improve housing access and to reduce health inequalities.
  • Consumer Health Informatics Lab (CHIL) : The mission of CHIL at Yale is to improve the health of individuals by supporting innovative research through consultation on inclusive design and usability testing of consumer health products for diverse populations. In particular, the lab is working to narrow the digital health divide for people of color, leveraging technology to provide mental health services and resources to underserved Black and Brown communities.
  • YSPH researchers are leading studies that have important implications for how structural racism, racial discrimination, and discriminatory policies affect a whole range of additional health outcomes, including sepsis care, LGBTQ health, environmental health, and HIV and substance use.
  • YSPH bestows an annual faculty award and MPH thesis prize recognizing outstanding research advancing health equity.

Community-Engaged Practice

At YSPH, we commit to working with and being accountable to the communities we serve by building authentic and sustainable partnerships.

  • YSPH launches a Health Equity Fellowship program : In collaboration with Southern Connecticut State University, the YSPH Office of Public Health Practice created this summer program to provide students an opportunity to gain valuable public health work experience conducting health equity projects that are co-created with various community organizations working with and in historically underrepresented communities in the Greater New Haven area. In addition to working on their projects, students participate in sessions focused on learning more about health equity, the harmful impacts of inequitable practices, community-based participatory approaches, and how to work with communities in a culturally responsive way.
  • YSPH creates a Community Impact Lab : The CI Lab is centered around building equitable partnerships with local non-profit organizations so that students can access experiential learning opportunities that will allow them real-world public health practice experiences. The YSPH Office of Public Health Practice established the CI Lab as part of its mission to educate and train an inclusive public health workforce that is equipped to address today’s complex public health challenges and oppression in all its forms in partnership with the community.
  • YSPH establishes an Activist-in-Residence program : The vision for this program is for researchers and public health practitioners to listen to activists’ lived experiences and collaborate with them. By connecting academics to activists on public health-related issues, such as criminal justice reform, environmental injustice, and gun violence, the program emphasizes community-based partnerships and solutions in pursuit of creating policies that change real lives.

Visit the Yale and Slavery Research Project website to learn more

The Yale and Slavery Research Project website includes a free digital download of the book Yale and Slavery: A History, a timeline and videos of research findings, information about the university’s commitment to building a stronger community, a mobile app that provides a self-guided tour of sites associated with Yale’s history and legacy of slavery, and ways to provide community input.