Michael Wenye Li / Sun Photography Editor

The Inequality Studies Minor is housed in Uris Hall within the Center for Inequality Studies Minor.

February 28, 2019

Inequality Studies Minor Offers New Health Equity Track

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For the first time in the inequality studies minor’s 20-year history, students can now declare a health equity track within the program. Health equity track students explore how race, gender and class factors into different health outcomes, according to Prof. Kim Weeden, director of the Center for Inequality Studies.

The health equity track is open to any undergraduate in the inequality studies minor. The track is designed to attract students interested in different forms of health disparities, such as pre-medical students, said Prof. Erin York Cornwell, sociology.

Health disparities can be “both a cause and a consequence” of economic inequality, according to Weeden, who is also chair of the sociology department. The new track plans to explore this relationship.

Although race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status do not directly impact health, they affect an individual’s access to resources and their environment. The social environment “gets under the skin” to affect health, Cornwell said.

Carcinogens are more likely to be found in poor neighborhoods. The race, gender and social class of patients can also impact how medical professionals interact with them.

“Because of this, addressing health inequalities is a complex challenge that requires addressing many other social inequalities,” Cornwell told The Sun in email.

Courses in health equity address these inequalities. Students will take two track-specific courses in addition to general minor requirements. Options include classes in health policy, clinical ethics and global health.

Thirty students have already enrolled this semester.

Joan Esmie ’21, one of the students in the health equity track, chose this path because of her desire to be a physician’s assistant. After graduation, Esmie wants to work in underserved communities, which she has learned more about through the minor’s classes.

“When I first heard about the minor I thought that there couldn’t have been anything more perfect for me,” Esmie told The Sun in an email.

Nancy Jiang ’19, who is also enrolled in the health equity track, hopes to work in policy in the future. Jiang was originally a global and public health major, but switched to policy analysis and management. She is completing this track to maintain her interest in health policy and global health.

“After taking classes in the minor, I feel compelled to make an impact on a community through policy change,” Jiang told The Sun in an email.

Weeden expects the health equity track to grow rapidly as more people learn about the option.