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Black Bodies, Black Health

Image credit: Chidiebere Ibe 

Black Bodies, Black Health

Black Bodies, Black Health is a one-year research project, supported by a $725,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Through seed grants, workshops, conferences and both scholarly and public writing, Black Bodies, Black Health incentivizes humanists, social scientists, and biomedical researchers to engage in interdisciplinary work to explore and unpack structural racism in service of creating equitable health outcomes.

Black Bodies, Black Health Steering Committee

Building an Inter-Disciplinary Conversation

Led by PIs Anna Branch and Michelle Stephens, the Steering Committee of Black Bodies, Black Health: Imagining a Just Racial Future focuses on organizing cross-disciplinary discussion groups of experts to wrestle with the question: What would we learn from bringing humanists, social scientists, and biomedical researchers to the table to explore, unpack, and disrupt structural racism in service of creating equitable health outcomes? 

With a wide and diverse range of expertise, steering committee members help to frame the seed grant program that incentivizes and organizes Rutgers researchers, and the interdisciplinary workshops and conversations convened to synthesize and develop their specific research projects. Steering Committee members will contribute to the project’s final report identifying the research needed in humanistic and social scientific fields to ameliorate structural racism as a determinant of health and wellbeing.

Seed Grants

The Black Bodies, Black Health project provided seed grants for 2022 and 2023 to support a range of multi-disciplinary research projects that focus on forms of physician education; the carceral state; environmental racism; the physiological impact of racism on black bodies; and ethics and decolonial justice in global health.

Researchers in fields as diverse as applied psychology (Alexandria Bauer, GSAPP NB), history (Johanna Schoen, SAS NB) and medicine (Pamela Brug, RBHS), examine such topics as communication between doctors and black families in neonatal ICUs, the impact of cultural humility among physicians, and the effectivity of technological solutions to uniting like-minded patients and physicians.

Studies of the impact of environmental racism on health outcomes by researchers from the environmental sciences (Anita Bakshi, SEBS NB), nursing (Wanda Williams and Mei Fu, SON CMD) and history (Rachel Devlin, SAS NB) focus on environmental justice and indigeneity, the impact of place-based versus person-based barriers on rates of breast cancer screenings among black women, and a micro-history of the impact of environmental racism on a southern black community.

Research initiatives focus on the intersections of population ethics and health in African spaces or poor-resources settings, and the role of histories of colonization in continuing health inequities around the globe.

Researchers from applied psychology (Peter Economou, GSAPP NB) and labor relations (Yana Rodgers, SMLR NB) study racism as a contributor to physiological stress in black athletes and black women in the labor market.

As a crucial contemporary instance of the institutionalization of systemic, structural racism with negative health outcomes, scholars from philosophy (Lauren Lyons, SAS NB), psychology (Lori Hoggard, SAS NB) nursing (Ann Bagchi, RBHS) and social work (Maxine Davis, SSW NB), are studying the ethics of carceral justice...

Accordion Content

  • This 3-day conference featured in-depth engagement with scholars in the broad field of race and health and a mix of speakers and group discussions focusing on racial health disparities and achieving health equity. The conference culminated in the Presidential Keynote by sitting Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway titled "Mapping Value: The Material Consequences of Structural Racism."

    Click here to learn more about the conference. 
    Watch the Conference On-Demand here. 
    • Welcome: "Centering the Black Body" by Black Bodies, Black Health Project Leads Dr. Michelle Stephens and Dr. Anna Branch
    • “To Wash the Ethiope: The Treatment of Black Bodies” by Dr. Patricia Akhimie 
    • “Racism and Structural Racism Undermine the Public Health: What Research Evidences” by Dr. Perry Halkitis 
    • Presidential Keynote | Mapping Value: The Material Consequences of  Structural Racism”  by Dr. Jonathan S. Holloway, Rutgers President and University Professor 


  • Developing a shared language about race

    This virtual workshop held on March 30th, 2022, brought a multi-disciplinary group of seed grantees together with humanistic scholars to begin the process of envisioning inter-disciplinary thinking and collaboration in the study of health inequities and the reification of race. BBBH seed grantees met to discuss their projects and develop further a shared vocabulary regarding race and race-thinking across their multiple disciplinary locations and methodologies. 

    Speakers: Patricia Akhimie, Assoc. Prof., English SASN (NWK);  Derrick Darby, Dist. Prof. Philosophy SAS (NB); Frank Edwards, Asst. Prof., School of Criminal Justice (NWK), ISGRJ Early Career Faculty Fellow; Melinda Gonzalez, Postdoc Assoc., Sociology-Anthropology SASN (NWK), ISGRJ Post Doc; Keith Green, Assoc. Prof., Africana Studies FAS CMD, ISGRJ Senior Fellow; Jennifer Mittelstadt, Prof, History SAS (NB); Charles Senteio, Asst. Prof., School of Communication and Information (SCI), NB.

    Watch the highlight video of the workshop
  • On the Pandemic is a podcast series, hosted by Mary Marchetta O'Dowd, in which university experts and leaders in health examine the critical challenges we face in our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    On the Pandemic Podcast, Season 2, Ep. 9

    Listen to Episode 9: The Impact on Race on Health


    Mary Marchetta O'Dowd, MPH

    Executive Director, Health Systems and Population Health Integration

    Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences 


    Denise V. Rodgers, MD, FAAFP

     Vice Chancellor of Interprofessional Programs

    Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences

    Listen on your preferred platform:

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