Intersectionality & Public Health


Driving factors of the Intersectionality & Public Health Sympoisum

There are multiple theoretical frameworks for conceptualizing the complexity of disparities and “vulnerability” in public health, from political ecology in health geography to risk environment models in HIV/HCV literature, with varying success in being broadly adapted. Measuring the social determinants of health as a multidimensional phenomena is still in early stages of refinement, with dozens of SDOH conceptual models emerging.

Yet dominant public health approaches still tend to focus on one indicator or exposure over time, rather than how interacting phenomena produce health disparities in varying ways. For example we often find geographical correlations across multiple indicators for different phenomena that are easily misunderstood as causal, but instead reflect longitudinal community de-investment, structural racism, and related phenomena that necessitate a more nuanced and often historic understanding.

Furthermore how we talk about these topics matter. For example, using terms like “vulnerable” to describe marginalized communities may pathologize neighborhoods and miss actual pathways that drive different health outcomes… at a time that demands a shifting focus from “race” to “racism.”

We proposed a retreat/symposium to better understand, discuss, and extend the intersectionality conceptual model that’s already well established at an individual level, to the population level, for better translation of these complex and nuanced topics. We hope to connect with other public health researchers and community members to better develop capacity of better:

  • Understanding intersectionality
  • Sharing, exchanging, and refining resources with a public health focus
  • Examining how to integrate intersectionality in quantitative modeling, including issues of dealing with disparities in data, bias in data collection, complexity of measurement, and ethical + appropriate approaches for evaluation. What would best practices look like?
  • How do we do research to support and empower communities effectively in an intersectional framing?
  • How are trauma informed approaches best integrated?
  • Considering the following intersections: How do we model/identify these intersections?
    • COVID Intersections
    • Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) Intersections
    • HIV and HCV Syndemics Intersections
    • Racial, Ethnic, and Immigrant Experience Intersections
    • Sexuality/Gender Experience Intersections
    • Rural/Suburban/Urban Landscape Intersections
    • Differing Abilities Intersections
  • Add Your Own
    • Some of these topics were considered in a journal club to start, and aspects that cross over to geography and GIScience will be considered further at a special session of the the Health Symposium of the American Association of Geographers 2021 Annual Conference.

      Yet we need to continue building networks and capacity across disciplines and sectors. We hope that this retreat/symposium connects these important topics and community to continue the important work of public health and health, racial, and social equity.

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