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Dr. David Williams of Harvard University Delivers Inspiring Lecture about Racial Health Disparities

The Center for Research on Families was thrilled to host Dr. David Williams for a lecture on March 5, 2013. Dr. Williams is the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University and gave a lecture on “Racism and Health: Findings, Questions and Directions.” He has done extensive work examining inequality in health and captivated a packed room with his research, analysis, and goals for the health field.

Williams began his presentation by highlighting a variety of studies that prove that non-white individuals have worse health outcomes, less access to healthcare, lower quality of care, higher levels of traditional stressors, and face internalized racism. Some people question these finding by arguing that racism is a problem of the past, individuals perceive other problems as racism, or that racism should not be included in scientific research at all. However, he used national data—not just a sample or individual study—to demonstrate that a wide variety of measures including life expectancy, neonatal morbidity, and early onset of diseases show that the inequalities in health are very real and cannot be denied. His lecture showed that no matter which angle you use to look at the situation, racism still exists and racial inequality in health is not going away on its own.

Although these disparities have been developing for decades on cultural, institutional, and economic levels, Williams gave hope that there are feasible ways to address this issue on a variety of fronts. Improved policy has the power to address inequality in housing, education, and incarceration which are policy areas that are directly correlated with improved health outcomes and healthcare. Psychological interventions can enhance individuals’ sense of adequacy and self-worth through simple, short term interventions that have long term results. Social belonging intervention can help people to make healthy choices and empower individuals. Media can also be used to erase negative implicit biases and dismantle institutional structures.

This lecture was co-sponsored by the UMass Center for Research on Families' Tay Gavin Erickson Lecture Series,  the 2012-13 Clinical Psychology Diversity Speaker Series (awarded a 2012 APA CEMRRAT Implementation Grants Fund (IGF) for Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention and Training in Psychology), the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Psychology Department Research Mentoring Group Speaker Series which is supported by the UMass Amherst Center for Teaching & Faculty Development's Mutual Mentoring Initiative, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Department of Public Health in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences and the Western MA Public Health Training Center.

To see a video Dr. Williams’ full presentation, please follow this link: