We at Vital are excited to announce a new series, beginning soon, on Racism in Science.
It might surprise a great many people to learn what social scientists have long maintained, that race has little if any biological basis. If, as Kittles and Benn-Torres explain race has “no clear biological definition yet strong social and cultural meanings,” what does it mean today to study race in science, medicine, and health? Continue reading →
When it comes to international aid, attempts to improve public health, assist in development, and respond to natural disasters can be thwarted by political strife and global economic inequality that stretch far beyond the control of the individuals whose lives are at stake. In this context, expertise in the culture, history, and language of a country, in addition to scientific and medical knowledge, can go a long way toward improving the potential success of public health policies and interventions.
The cholera epidemic that spread in Haiti nine months after the 2010 earthquake, for example, was started by U.N. peacekeeping forces, but only six years after its initial outbreak did the U.N. admit it played a role in the affair. In an effort to understand how deeply-rooted assumptions about a culture can have significant impact on public health policy, Lesley S. Curtis, Vital’s Editor-in-Chief and scholar of Haitian Studies, interviewed Jonathan M. Katz, the journalist whose investigation first revealed the U.N.’s responsibility for the epidemic and the author of The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. Continue reading →
What American History Can Tell Us about Health and Social Change
Today, health and healthcare are hotly debated political issues. We are also witnessing a resurgence of civil rights movements that call attention to race, gender, sexuality, ability, age, and structural inequality. American history shows us, though, that grassroots, patient-centered change actually flourishes in times of concentrated civil rights activity. What we can learn from this history is that health is not merely an objective state of physical being. It is also, and perhaps first and foremost, a lived experience in a political, economic, and social climate. Continue reading →
It was a comfortable summer night in West Philly.
I sat on my block eating ribs, laughing with family, and watching as my younger cousins playfully ran up the sidewalk. Old school music blared from the radio nearby. It was perfectly peaceful.
Suddenly the music was interrupted. The radio host gravely announced that the verdict was about to be read. I sat frozen—prepared for the worst, yet optimistic for the best. Continue reading →
Noting the Social Aspects of Racial Identity in Genetic Research is Vital to Improving Healthcare
In a recent New York Times article, “Tales of African-American Identity Found in DNA,” Carl Zimmer explains that new genetic research on individuals identifying as African American confirms historical accounts and provides new details about a past that was often not recorded. It’s exciting to see that scientists are following a larger trend that can be observed in any number of fields (from genetics to history to literature), which involves an epidemiological correction, a shifting of the predominant focus of study away from males of European descent as if they were representative of the whole species. Continue reading →