Racism: Science & Tools for the Public Health ProfessionalWhen APHA Press decided to launch work on a new book about racism and public health, no one knew that the eventual “Racism: Science and Tools for the Public Health Professional” would publish at such a pivotal moment in history.

The groundbreaking reference tool focuses on understanding and addressing the systems of inequality that produce and sustain health inequities. Just after its release in 2019, attendees at APHA’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia lined up to talk to the book’s four co-editors at a meet-and-greet event, which lasted three times longer than scheduled. Hunger for the topic only grew from there.

At yesterday’s virtual meet and greet, the editors discussed the APHA best-seller in the context of current events, such as the Trump administration’s recent ban on anti-bias trainings for federal contractors and its claim that the critical race theory on which such trainings are based are “un-American propaganda.”

Chandra Ford wearing headphonesChandra Ford, one of the book’s co-editors, called the federal move “chilling and intimidating, but not surprising.” Ford is founding director of the Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health at the University of California-Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health, which partnered with APHA Press on the book. Ford said it’s also “a reminder that we need to work collectively and be bold and not intimidated.”

Derk Griffith smiling“When you have to mobilize such a powerful response at such a level, to me that’s a testimony to the progress of the work. If it’s pissing off the right people, then we’re doing the right thing,” said co-editor Derek Griffith, founder and director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health at Vanderbilt University.

Co-editor Keon Gilbert, founder of the Institute for Healing Justice and Equity at Saint Louis University, noted that the book builds on the equity work that public health advocates and others have been doing for decades. But in targeting racism head-on and calling it out specifically, he said the book marks an important shift in the field's struggle for racial equity in health.

Marino Bruce, also a co-editor, said while some leaders say they don’t believe structural racism exists, some things have changed thanks to the tireless work of civil rights leaders like U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who died earlier this year.

“Thirty years ago, you couldn’t even say ‘racism’ in the classroom,” said Bruce, research associate professor of medicine, health and society at the University of Mississippi and director of its Program for Research on Faith and Health. “Now they’re talking about structural racism on the nightly news.”

During the meet and greet, the editors noted that the book offers substantive discussions on the science of racism, which helps readers move beyond the idea of perceived racism. “Publication of the book itself acknowledges that racism exists and in a number of different ways,” Bruce said. “It gives people a way to explore it, give voice to it, ask questions and get engaged in dismantling it.”

Racism: Science and Tools for the Public Health Professional” is for sale in print and as an ebook, along with an open-access video interview with Ford. For more information about racism as a public health issue, check out APHA resources and its free webinar series, “Advancing Racial Equity.”

Photos of Chandra Ford and Derek Griffith during the author meet and greet courtesy The Nation's Health.