CDC research director tackles topic of racism

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | April 11, 2013

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Camara Jones, M.D., Ph.D
Camara Jones, M.D., Ph.D., is not afraid to talk about racism.

She doesn't want you to be, either.

"Basically, many people are afraid to name racism, and other people are not even aware that racism continues to exist and have a profound impact on all of our life experiences," Dr. Jones said.

On Friday, Dr. Jones, research director on social determinants of health and equity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will discuss "Achieving Health Equity: Addressing the Impacts of Racism on Health." Her noon discussion will be in the Maurer Center for Public Health, Room 3013. Lunch will be provided to the first 80 participants.

The purpose of her discussion is to equip people with the tools to name, measure, and address the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of the nation.

"We need to start with naming racism so that we can then ask the question, 'How is racism operating here?' The mechanisms of institutionalized racism are in our structures, policies, practices, norms and values," she said.

"We often avoid discussing controversial topics like religion, politics and racism. Dr. Jones is willing to lead those difficult discussions as the pioneer highlighting racism as a major social determinant of health."

Renaisa Anthony, M.D.

"Once people can identify these mechanisms , they can be equipped to know how to act. The main thing is to give people tools - and it starts with the naming, with naming racism."

Dr. Jones said racism does not only impact certain populations.

"It's sapping the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources," she said.

Dr. Jones said she was looking forward to learning more about the work being done at UNMC, and expressed interest in CityMatch, founded by Magda Peck, Sc.D., former UNMC faculty member who is now dean of the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"I'm sorry to miss Dr. Peck, but I'm interested in learning more about the Center for Reducing Health Disparities, CityMatCH, and other work going on at UNMC," Dr. Jones said. "I know that there's a history of progressive thought and action there."

Renaisa Anthony, M.D., deputy director of the CRHD, said the center was pleased to host Dr. Jones.

"We often avoid discussing controversial topics like religion, politics and racism. Dr. Jones is willing to lead those difficult discussions as the pioneer highlighting racism as a major social determinant of health," Dr. Anthony said. "She has spearheaded efforts to identify how racism 'gets under our skin' and proposed salient solutions."

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