OMHHE Champion

Office of Minority Health and Health Equity Champion
Nancy Krieger, PhD

Nancy Krieger, PhD
Professor, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences,
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Nancy Krieger, PhD is a professor of Social Epidemiology and American Cancer Society Clinical Research in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) and Director of the HSPH Interdisciplinary Concentration on Women, Gender, and Health. She received her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1989. Krieger is an internationally recognized social epidemiologist, with a background in biochemistry, philosophy of science, and the history of public health, combined with over 30 years of activism linking issues involving social justice, science, and health.

“The value of evidence about the adverse impact of racism on people’s health and on science is not that this evidence proves racism is “wrong” – because, by definition, injustice is wrong, whether or not it harms health – but because it provides information about hazards to health that are in principle preventable,” said Krieger.

Informed by an analysis of the history and politics of epidemiology and public health, Krieger’s work addresses three topics:

  1. conceptual frameworks to understand, analyze, and improve the people’s health, including the ecosocial theory of disease distribution she has been developing since 1994 and its focus on embodiment and equity;
  2. etiologic research on societal determinants of population health and health inequities; and
  3. methodologic research on improving monitoring of health inequities.

“Viewing population health and health inequities as embodied history, ecosocial theory pays heed to societal and ecologic context, to lifecourse and historical generation, to levels of analysis, and to inter-relationships between diverse forms of social inequality, including racism, class, gender, and sexuality,” said Krieger.

“A key focus is on ‘embodiment,’ referring to how we literally embody, biologically, our societal and ecologic context – across levels and generations – thereby creating population patterns of health, disease, and health inequities; another key focus  is on ‘accountability and agency,’ both for social inequalities in health and for ways they are – or are not – monitored, analyzed, and addressed.”

Examples of her epidemiologic research include: studies on racism, discrimination, and health; socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in breast cancer; and research on appropriate measures of social class (individual, household, and neighborhood) for monitoring social inequalities in health and studying women, gender, class, and health.

“Questioning the existence of injustice is central to work for social justice. Asking about its causes and consequences—including for the people’s health—is at once both a practical necessity and a vital act of imagination and hope, premised on the insight that what is need not always be,” said Krieger. “Once the question is called, critical and creative work can and must be done to expose why the injustice exists, including who gains and who loses and how it wreaks its woe, thereby generating knowledge useful for both rectifying harm and creating just and sustainable solutions.”

In 2004, Krieger became an Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) highly cited scientist (reaffirmed: 2015 ISI update), a group comprising “less than one-half of one percent of all publishing researchers.” In 2013, Krieger was the recipient of the Wade Hampton Frost Award from the Epidemiology Section of the American Public Health Association. In 2015, she was awarded the American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship.

Krieger is author of Epidemiology and The People’s Health: Theory and Context (Oxford University Press, 2011), series editor of “small books with big ideas for population health) and author of introductions to the first two books in the series (Political Epidemiology & The People’s Health, by Jason Beckfield, OUP, 2018; Climate Change & The People’s Health, by Sharon Friel, OUP, 2019); editor of Embodying Inequality: Epidemiologic Perspectives (Baywood Press, 2004) and co-editor, with Glen Margo, of AIDS: The Politics of Survival (Baywood Publishers, 1994), and, with Elizabeth Fee, of Women’s Health, Politics, and Power: Essays on Sex/Gender, Medicine, and Public Health (Baywood Publishers, 1994). In 1994 she co-founded, and still chairs, the Spirit of 1848 Caucus of the American Public Health Association, which is concerned with the links between social justice and public health.

In Memoriam
the late William Carter (Bill) Jenkins, PhD, MPH

Photo courtesy of blackvoicenews.com

OMHHE staff mourn the loss of William Carter (Bill) Jenkins, PhD, MPHExternal, alumnus and adjunct professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Throughout his life, Jenkins was a staunch advocate for minority health and a passionate witness against racism. OMHHE especially recognizes his invaluable contributions in the establishment and growth of Project IMHOTEPExternal at Morehouse College where Jenkins once served as professor of Public Health Sciences and Associate Director of the Research Center on Health Disparities. For two decades, Jenkins served as supervisory epidemiologist in the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention at CDC and managed its Minority Health Activities Program. He also managed the Participant Health Benefits Program, which assures medical services to the survivors of the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. Jenkins served as an expert on minority issues in disease transmission, as chief of the Research and Evaluation Statistics Section in the Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Prevention, and as manager of the National Minority Organizations HIV Prevention Program.

Page last reviewed: March 18, 2019