• 12 May 2021

    GCPH Seminar Series 17: Lecture 2 - Prof David Williams


    How racism shapes our health

    Professor David Williams

    Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health, Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology, Harvard University

    We were delighted that Professor David Williams could join us to deliver this timely and keynote seminar to explain why, and how, race matters so profoundly for health.

    This webinar is one component of a body of work and concerted public health effort led by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health and Dr Ima Jackson, Co-Chair of the Scottish Migrant and Ethnic Health Research Strategy Group, in collaboration with Public Health Scotland, to develop understanding of racism and racialisation as fundamental determinants of health in Scotland. This work is committed to ensuring Scotland as a nation has the information it needs to address racism, discrimination and the impacts on population health.

    Dissatisfied with an assertion that race mattered for health but without an understanding or articulation of what the mechanisms and pathways might be, Professor Williams has dedicated his career to better understand and evidence this.

    In this seminar, he presented the discrimination scales he has developed that measure and evidence different types of interpersonal discrimination and their negative effects on health. These document that how we treat and relate to each other on a day-to-day basis, do not just matter for how they make us feel or our mental health responses, but lead to pathogenic responses within the body.

    Professor Williams also outlined the insidious effects that implicit biases, unconscious discrimination and racialised frames of reference have in creating and maintaining the deep-rooted individual, institutional and systemic racial discrimination that pertain today.

    After sharing his insights, Professor Williams, together with a group of panellists chaired by Dr Ima Jackson, explored how we can begin to dismantle the racial discrimination that exists across public health institutions and systems in Scotland.

    This webinar brought together community members with experience of racialisation and public health leads in research, policy and service provision in Scotland, to listen and learn together in our pursuit to mainstream the understanding of racism as a fundamental cause of health inequality. 

    Dr David R Williams is the Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also a Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard. His prior academic appointments were at Yale and the University of Michigan.

    The author of over 500 scientific papers, his research has addressed how race, stress, socioeconomic status, racism, health behavior and religious involvement can affect health. He holds an MPH from Loma Linda University and a PhD in sociology from the University of Michigan.

    Dr Williams was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2001, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 2019. He has been ranked as the Most Cited Black Scholar in the Social Sciences, worldwide, and as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.

    His research has been featured in the national print and television media and in his TED Talk.

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    If you would like to follow or contribute to the webinar on Twitter, please use the hashtag #GCPHSem17