The University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health is introducing a new Masters of Public Health (MPH). Set to launch in Fall 2023, The Black Health program will be U of T’s newest initiative in achieving sustainable and equitable healthcare for BIPOC patients. The Program Director and creator, Professor Roberta Timothy, is an Assistant Professor in the Social and Behavioral Health Sciences Division program at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Professor Timothy’s research focuses on intersectionality and its effects on mental health, African/Black and Indigenous health, and social justice health policy. As a contributor to critical race theory, Professor Timothy notes how discrimination can manifest itself in numerous ways within Black and Indigenous communities with regard to public health.
The term “intersectionality” was invented by Kimberlé Crenshaw—the creator of the intersectionality theory. The notion states that intersectionality is an analytical framework that allows us to identify where the different identities we undertake and systems of power intersect. For example, Black women face difficulty in healthcare and education because they are both Black and women—being victims of both racism and sexism.
In response to the mistreatment of these communities, Professor Timothy created the Black Health program “to empower future generations to create a resilient healthcare system that challenges anti-Black racism and promotes innovation.” The program will help to build an anti-oppressive healthcare system that will benefit African/Black and Indigenous communities. Black communities are filled with diverse identities which can consist of numerous characteristics such as gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, socio-economic status, and disabilities.
Areas of the program will address the effects of anti-Black racism and intersectionality on maternal healthcare, and the implications of intersectionality on elders and children within the Black community. This means looking at intergenerational relationships, assessing the effects of generational trauma on mental health, and promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity within the public healthcare system.
As defined by Professor Timothy, “anti-Black racism is a very complex and [unaddressed] issue within our society and the Canadian public healthcare system.” She also discusses how the child-welfare system, the disproportionate number of Black men in prisons, and bias within institutionalized systems are ever-present reminders of the discrimination faced by Black communities.
Furthermore, Professor Timothy highlights that “it is important that when talking about anti-Black racism to talk about it as a violence, that means not only just being prejudiced to somebody but to cause another person physical, mental, social and financial harm to someone.”
Professor Timothy recently hosted the Black Health program’s first information session on September 27, 2022. More information sessions will take place throughout the year. Professor Timothy indicated that they will soon begin hiring both staff and volunteers for the 2023 school year.
“We must continue to be innovative, inclusive, and impartial as we continue to create a culturally responsive and safe health care system for all members of society,” expresses Professor Timothy.
The Black Health program will inevitably change the way medicine and the Canadian healthcare system operate. Professor Timothy reflected on the program by stating that “This is something [that] has been years in the making.” The creation of this program is bittersweet; it’s upsetting that we need such a program to ensure proper healthcare for all, but it is reassuring and exciting to know that this program will improve healthcare for future generations.