Credit: Kenneth Zirkel

Beginning with the 2021 spring semester, the School of Public Health offers a course to students at all levels that directly examines racial and ethnic health disparities. According to Courses@Brown, the aim of PHP1650 ‘Race, Racism and Health’ is to “expose students to state-of-the-science conceptual and methodological approaches to critically analyze and identify strategies to address racial and ethnic health disparities.”

Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, Associate Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Associate Professor of Epidemiology Credit: Kenneth Zirkel

Health inequities have long been the subject of study in the School of Public Health. Since 1994, Stephen McGarvey Ph.D., MPH, professor of epidemiology, has taught ‘The Burden of Disease in Developing Countries’ to over a thousand students, and numerous other courses have taught undergraduate and graduate students methodological approaches to studying health disparities and other topics related to diversity and inclusion. More recently, Jennifer Nazareno Ph.D., assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences, began teaching ‘Intersectionality and Health Inequities,’ which explores health disparities here in the U.S. through intersecting structural and social factors like race and ethnicity, gender, immigration status, socioeconomic position, age, and sexual orientation.

The new course, ‘Race, Racism and Health,’ which is designed and taught by Diana Grigsby-Toussaint Ph.D., MPH, associate professor of behavioral and social sciences and associate director of Brown’s MPH program, was launched amid a global pandemic that has exacerbated racial health disparities.

“The circumstances of the last year have created fertile conditions for exploring race, racism and health,” Grigsby-Toussaint said. “The disproportionate deaths of minoritized groups from COVID-19 compared to whites in the U.S. brought into sharp focus the historical and contemporary factors that influence racial and ethnic disparities in health—allowing us to delve into issues of structural racism that are not typically covered in many public health courses.”

Jai-Me Potter-Rutledge, program manager for SPH Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

The skills gained in the course, including understanding the ways various dimensions of racism lead to physiological and psychological responses harmful to health, are crucial for entering the professional world in almost every field, says the School’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“As a leader in public health education, we would be doing a disservice to our students and our community by not making sure that our students have strong foundational knowledge on how race and racism impact public health and health outcomes,” said Jai-Me Potter-Rutledge, program manager for SPH Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives. “Our students should be entering the profession of public health ready to think critically and strategically about these issues, regardless of their discipline.”

Explore complete listings of courses offered by the School of Public Health by visiting and search PHP.