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Embedding anti-racism in Schools of Public Health: a pathway to accountability for progress towards equity

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Abstract

The importance of seeing race as a socially constructed idea continues to produce unfair differences between humans and establishes power relations that lead to injustice and exposure to death. Since the racial justice movement in early 2020, there has been a heightened awareness of, and increased interest in, addressing historic racial disparities across Schools of Public Health (SPH) in Canada. Steps have been taken to recognize systemic racism and increase diversity through structural reforms to advance equity and inclusion; however, addressing racism demands collectively uprooting racist institutional designs still inherent in learning, teaching, research, service, and community engagement. This commentary highlights the need for sustained commitment to establishing longitudinal benchmarks for greater racial equity among students, staff, and faculty; revising curricula to include historic and contemporary narratives of colonialism and slavery; and providing community-engaged learning opportunities as instrumental to dismantle systemic drivers of racial health inequities locally and globally. We also advocate for intersectoral collaboration, mutual learning, and sharing of resources across SPH and partner agencies to accomplish a continual collective agenda for racial health equity and inclusion that is intersectional in Canada, while being held accountable to Indigenous and racialized communities.

Résumé

L’importance de voir la race comme une idée socialement construite continue de produire des différences inéquitables entre les gens et d’établir des relations de pouvoir qui mènent à l’injustice et à l’exposition à la mort. Depuis que le mouvement pour la justice raciale s’est enclenché au début de 2020, il existe une conscience aiguë des disparités raciales historiques entre les écoles de santé publique (ESP) du Canada et un intérêt accru pour le redressement de ces disparités. Des mesures ont été prises pour reconnaître le racisme systémique et accroître la diversité par des réformes structurelles visant à promouvoir l’équité et l’inclusion; cependant, pour aborder le racisme, il faut collectivement arracher les modèles institutionnels racistes qui font encore partie intégrante de l’apprentissage, de l’enseignement, de la recherche, des services et de la participation de la communauté. Dans notre commentaire, nous soulignons le besoin d’un engagement soutenu à établir des repères longitudinaux pour une plus grande équité raciale dans la population étudiante, au sein du personnel et dans le corps professoral, à revoir les programmes d’études pour y inclure les discours historiques et contemporains du colonialisme et de l’esclavage, et à offrir des possibilités d’enseignement faisant appel aux communautés, car elles contribueront à démanteler les moteurs systémiques des iniquités raciales en santé à l’échelle locale et mondiale. Nous promulguons aussi la collaboration intersectorielle, l’apprentissage mutuel et le partage des ressources entre les ESP et les organismes partenaires afin de concrétiser un plan d’action collective continue en faveur de l’équité raciale en santé et de l’inclusion – un plan qui sera intersectionnel au Canada et qui rendra des comptes aux communautés autochtones et racisées.

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Banerjee led the conception of the work. All authors participated in the drafting, editing, and finalizing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ananya Tina Banerjee.

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Banerjee, A.T., Tan, A., Boston-Fisher, N. et al. Embedding anti-racism in Schools of Public Health: a pathway to accountability for progress towards equity. Can J Public Health 114, 872–877 (2023). https://doi.org/10.17269/s41997-023-00796-z

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