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Black Bodies, Black Health

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Black Bodies, Black Health

Black Bodies, Black Health is a research project, supported by 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 wins Award of Distinction at the 30th Annual Communicator Awards

We are thrilled to share the news that our book, Black Bodies, Black Health (a visual archive chronicling our 18-month research project supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) has won the Award of Distinction in the Educational Institution Print Content category at the 30th Annual Communicator Awards! 

This award is presented to projects that exceed industry standards in quality and achievement and recognizes excellence, effectiveness, and innovation across all areas of communication. They are the leading international awards program honoring talent in this highly competitive field celebrating three decades of impactful communication across industries and mediums.

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BBBH Newsletter

We're pleased to share our Black Bodies, Black Health newsletter, reflecting our signature research project, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, focused on disrupting disparity and creating equitable health outcomes.

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Black Bodies, Black Health Steering Committee

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.

Building an Inter-Disciplinary Conversation

Led by PIs Michelle Stephens and Anna Branch, 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? 

Black Bodies, Black Health Research Project Lead, Founding and Executive Director, Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers University, Professor of English and Latino and Caribbean Studies at Rutgers-New Brunswick

Black Bodies, Black Health Research Project Lead, Senior Vice President for Equity at Rutgers University, and Professor of Sociology at Rutgers-New Brunswick

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; ethics and decolonial justice in global health; and the links between social justice leadership and transformative self-care.

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.

Communities of Care

The Seeing Wellness Research Project (Laura Porterfield, SASN) uses photography and film to demonstrate the ways inequitable labor loads, and corresponding racialized and gender trauma, are transformed through arts-based engagement. The Racialized Occupational Stress and Health for Black Executive Women Project (Anna Branch, SAS) is developing an annotated bibliography to summarize the literature within sociology on Black women and occupational stress broadly.

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.

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.

The Health Humanities, Communication, and Informatics (HHCI) Working Group

A new Working Group, supported by the RWJF Black Bodies, Black Health grant, to continue the work of the BBBH project in advancing race and health equity research at Rutgers, and for the wider scholarly community.

The HHCI Working Group and Steering Committee

The work of Black Bodies, Black Health continues in the Health Humanities, Communication, and Informatics (HHCI) Working Group, originating from the Rutgers School of Communication and Information (SC&I)

HHCI is led by Charles Senteio, Associate Professor of Library and Information Science, whose first project, along with the HHCI Steering Committee he has convened, will be to spend 2023-2024 exploring, researching and doing outreach for a "Data Equity Initiative" with the goal the creation of an interdisciplinary space to tackle health equity topics across Rutgers-New Brunswick. 

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Tawfiq Ammari 

Tawfiq Ammari is a mixed methods researcher connecting critical theory values from STS with
computational social science techniques to advocate for equity and progressive social change in
online contexts. His research lies at the intersection of Social Computing, Data Science, and Science, Technology, and Society Studies (STS). His work focuses on the interplay between technological and social role change. 


Shawnika Hull

Shawnika Hull specializes in strategic health communication research and practice, especially as they apply to HIV prevention in Black communities. She is fluent in qualitative and quantitative methods. Through her research, she seeks to understand and impact HIV risk and prevention through the lens of communication, which operates through multiple pathways and at multiple levels.


Katherine (Katya) Ognyanova

Katherine Ognyanova's research examines the effects of social influence on civic and political behavior, confidence in institutions, information exposure/evaluation, and public opinion formation. Ognyanova’s methodological expertise is in computational social science, network science, and survey research. She is the director of the Rutgers Computational Social Science Lab. Her recent work examines the links between misinformation exposure and political trust.    

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Kristen Riley

Dr. Kristen E. Riley is a behavioral medicine and health equity researcher and clinical health
psychologist. Her research aims to increase access to care, with a focus on health equity. Specifically, she studies stigma, mindfulness, tobacco, and sleep, and she uses dissemination and implementation science to integrate behavioral medicine into medical settings to improve access to care and get interventions to those who need them most.

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Vivek Singh

Vivek Singh's research lies at the intersection of Computational Social Science, Data Science, and Multimedia Information Systems. Before joining Rutgers, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the MIT Media Lab. He holds a Ph.D. in Information and Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine. His work has appeared in leading disciplinary and interdisciplinary publication venues, and has been covered by popular media.

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Maria Venetis

Maria Venetis’ research interests lie at the intersection of interpersonal and health
communication; her research examines how individuals talk about health and the outcomes of
these conversations. She examines patient-provider interactions and communicative practices
within medical visits such as the connection between patient and companion question asking
and stating of psychosocial outcomes such as satisfaction and adherence. 

Black Bodies, Black Health Programs, Events and Workshops

  • We held the culminating event of the Black Bodies, Black Health Project — an 18-month research study at Rutgers University sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focused on racial health disparities — on Friday, June 2. The roundtable was at capacity and featured around 70 attendees including project leads Michelle Stephens and Anna Branch, our BBBH seed grantees, the project steering committee, Institute staff and other Rutgers guests, and external community leaders and stakeholders.

    We presented the key takeaways and research outcomes of this project, and welcomed feedback and responses from our stakeholders, both internal to Rutgers and from the broader community.

    Through seed grants, workshops, conferences, and both scholarly and public writing, our goal was to build an inter-disciplinary conversation with this signature project, and to incentivize humanists, social scientists, and biomedical researchers to engage in interdisciplinary work to explore and unpack structural racism in service of creating equitable health outcomes.

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    BBBH Stakeholders Roundtable ISGRJ Team
  • 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