The Minority Student Caucus held its 38th annual Minority Health Conference last Friday and brought out numerous professionals in the field, including speaker Chandra Ford, a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
Co-organizer of the event and second-year masters student, Marisa Martini, said the conference has changed both in increasing its attendance and its scope in the past year.
“We also have an on-campus group viewing and so that’s to expand the reach of the conference, since we are completely sold out here at the Friday Center and we didn’t want to stifle the growth of the conference,” Martini said.
Chancellor Carol Folt spoke about how the conference is one of the oldest student-led conferences on minority health and how it has grown since 1977 to include more people and a diverse range of conversations.
“As the field of public health continues to evolve and grow, this conference is a very important way to address health disparities and minority health issues in this state, across the nation and across the world,” said Folt.
Additionally, Folt said the theme of this year's conference is implemental in increasing discussions across different groups.
“This conference theme and focus, 'Systems of Power: Recalling Our Past, Restructuring Our Future,' is a very important opportunity for interdisciplinary discussion, engagement and emphasis on science and evidence-based decision making to help advance health equity,” she said.
Ford spoke about how both racism and the social political atmosphere affect public health.
“I would like you to take away three points — number one, public health has the capacity to lead anti-racism charge in this next phase of the battle for health equity; number two, the time to take action is now and number three, Public Health Critical Race Praxis offers important resources on which we can draw,” Ford said.
At the conference, well over 300 people attended in person, on campus or online. Attendees included professionals, professors, students and community members. One of these attendees was Chris Thornton, a junior North Carolina Central University student studying psychology and public health.
“Basically it’s not even a — it’s a lot of (women) in public health, but it’s not a lot of men," Thornton said. "This is basically a predominantly women’s conference so I was just kinda like wanting (to) get my foot in and now to see the different ropes of what’s going on here."
Ford, in her closing statements, presented four ways to take action against racism and described how public health needs to incorporate these in order to achieve professional goals.
“They are drawing on our past, producing and critiquing evidence, marrying our head and heart and engaging in disciplinary self-critiques,” said Ford.
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