A paper published Jan. 4 reflects on the anti-racist framework that was introduced to the School of Public Health’s foundations of maternal and child health practice policy course in fall 2020.
Cassondra Marshall, Michael Bakal, Julianna Deardorff, Cheri Pies and UC Berkeley School of Public Health Dean Michael Lu co-authored the paper in Graduate Education.
Marshall, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health who teaches that foundations course, said their development of the anti-racist framework three years ago came out of the events of 2020.
“There was obviously (the) COVID-19 pandemic playing across everyone’s eyes, but also the fact that racial and ethnic minoritized people and other socially marginalized people were bearing the brunt of this horrible pandemic,” Marshall said. “And we had the murder of George Floyd and there was so much more attention to the concept of structural racism from those two things in particular.”
Marshall noted that at the same time, many educational institutions such as UC Berkeley were thinking about how they could incorporate more anti-racist pedagogy into their classes that would not just teach concepts but would also help students “confront this issue of structural racism,” especially in maternal and child health.
Most of Marshall’s students were pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees in public health, and would be joining the field of public health if not already in the public health workforce.
For Marshall, it is especially important for anti-racist pedagogy to be incorporated into teaching on maternal and child health and public health in general.
“There are so many inequities … Black women, for example, are three to four times more likely to die during or due to childbirth than non-Hispanic white moms,” Marshall said. “There are many examples like that. And so if we are in public health and we’re thinking about improving the population’s health, addressing health inequities, we have to then be able to really think about the drivers of those differences.”
According to Marshall, structural racism is at the root of such inequity, which prompted her colleagues and herself to start having conversations about structural racism, how to confront disparities they see out in the field and work to dismantle structural racism.
Marshall noted that this initiative was just one of many anti-racist initiatives adopted by the school of public health, which she described as a leader on campus with regards to incorporating anti-racist pedagogy.
“Our school has taken many steps … (the School of Public Health) has entire committees dedicated to this, we had speakers come in, we had this faculty workshop, training institute — there’s been so many other things,” Marshall said. “Many institutions are grappling with this, this is not just Berkeley, but I certainly know that speaking to the School of Public Health, we were very proactive.”