Spring 2019

A quarterly e-newsletter in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) shares news, perspectives and progress in the science and practice of health equity.

Leandris Liburd, PhD, MPH, MA

Director, Office of Minority Health & Health Equity (OMHHE)

Welcome to Health Equity Matters, an electronic newsletter intended to promote awareness of minority health and health equity work at CDC and in the broader public health community, support the achievement of our goal to eliminate health disparities, improve women’s health, support diversity and inclusion in the public health workforce, and foster ongoing communication and collaboration with our partners and the public.

There is a boldness, courage, and genius that characterizes public health and its practitioners. Only the brave and brilliant willingly take up a profession that expects to change the health profile of entire populations. Public health scientists and practitioners believe they can find an answer to the most challenging and complex health issues of our time, and they often spend an entire career in this pursuit. When I first joined CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, I was struck by how many people had been working to reduce the burden of diabetes and its associated complications for more than 2 and 3 decades. Once I realized how many different ways one could approach the prevention and control of particularly Type 2 diabetes, it made sense to me why so many health professionals had devoted their lives to conquering this potentially devastating disease. As I am in my own 3rd decade of public health, I wake up every day to continue the journey toward a world where all people have the opportunity to attain the best health possible. There are many who proceeded me in this journey and others who are following suit.

This year,  Dr. William (Bill) Jenkins concluded his work as an advocate for minority health, racial equity, and social justice. However, his work will continue given the countless public health scientists he mentored and supported over the course of a 40+ year career. Much has been written about Dr. Jenkins since his passing. There have been articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post among others. I knew Dr. Jenkins. He was a legendary leader. He was bold, courageous, and brilliant. His presence filled a room. He was unwavering in his commitment to health equity and insuring continuing generations of a diverse and well-trained public health workforce. He challenged systems to adopt principles of fairness. He was a doting husband and father. I believe he genuinely loved his work, his colleagues, the students and young professionals he engaged, and the promise of public health. Grace Lee Boggs observed, “Love isn’t just something you feel. It’s something you do every day when you go out and pick [up] the paper and bottles scattered the night before on the corner, when you stop and talk to a neighbor, when you argue passionately for what you believe in with whoever will listen, when you call a friend to see how they’re doing, when you write a letter to the newspaper, when you give a speech and give ’em hell, when you never stop believing that we can all be more than what we are. In other words, Love isn’t about what we did yesterday; it’s about what we do today and tomorrow and the day after.” Bill’s life exemplified this kind of love. He leaves a void that won’t be filled quickly, but the work will continue.

This issue of Health Equity Matters features a Health Equity Champion who has similarly dedicated her entire career to uncovering social, political and economic determinants of health disparities. Internationally recognized, Dr. Nancy Krieger is a public health scholar, social epidemiologist, and social justice activist who is among the most cited and respected scholars in public health. I was first in a room with Dr. Krieger in the mid to late 1990s when she was one of an elite group of social epidemiologists, anthropologists, social scientists, and health care providers who were collaborating on a project supported by CDC to understand the ‘psychosocial stressors’ associated with pre-term delivery among African American women. The study was led by Dr. Diane Rowley – Dr. Jenkins’ widow, and a group of bold, courageous, and brilliant epidemiologists in CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health. This work was ground-breaking for CDC, and represented the kind of multidisciplinary collaboration that I believe should characterize more of our efforts to understand and address health inequities. We are honored to recognize and congratulate Dr. Krieger as a Health Equity Champion!

As always, we highlight events, reports, tools and resources, and new initiatives sponsored by CDC and our partners and sister federal agencies. For example, there is information about the national initiative – “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” that involves CDC, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, and other federal agencies. We also congratulate our colleagues in the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities on their release of a bold vision for minority health research, and share the special issue of the American Journal of Public Health detailing this vision. So dive in and we hope you find this issue enlightening and useful to your efforts to advance health equity!

Leandris C. Liburd, PhD, MPH, MA
Director, Office of Minority Health & Health Equity (OMHHE)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Page last reviewed: March 18, 2019