Course 2 Preview

Social Justice

Public health’s origins and initiatives are deeply intertwined with social justice. As a field, we must reengage with these social justice roots to transform the conditions that produce health equity and health inequity. Looking for the full Course 2? Access Course 2 here.

Course 2: Social Justice Introduction

Purpose and Overview

In its origins, public health was heavily influenced by social justice. As a field, public health emerged from the social justice reform efforts of the 19th century and, in its early stages, was able to achieve huge social advances. These advances helped to set the preconditions for how we think about population health today. This included issuing sanitation codes to improve the standard of living for all, abolishing child labor, and establishing the eight-hour workday. These advances required using a structural lens to identify the drivers of poor health outcomes, like infectious diseases, for large swaths of the population. However, not everyone benefited from them equally. And as the years progressed and the field evolved, public health has moved further away from its roots.1

In this course, we explore these origins and contemporary public health practice using a social justice movement lens. Together we will learn about social justice as a concept, its key principles, and common threads that currently tie social justice movements together with public health. We then explore the role of public health in these movements, as well as collective strategies to achieve the conditions needed for optimal health for all.

Course 2 Highlights

Screenshot of the Intersectionality Interactive
Screenshot of the West Harlem Timeline
Case Study
One case of environmental injustice in West Harlem shows how New York City’s siting of treatment plants in its Upper Manhattan neighborhoods drove up asthma rates for marginalized communities.
Screenshot of the interactive showing the approaches that leaders in the environmental justice movement have used to advance social justice and improve environmental health for all communities.
Compare and contrast the approaches of public health’s environmental health field and the environmental justice movement.
screenshot of aligning strategies for social justice page

Next Steps

Illustration of a group of people of various genders and races stand and sit around a table conversing
Start a group

Learn together about the roots of health inequity by starting a group for your organization. Our course provides step-by-step guidance on how to facilitate healthy dialogue and exploration.

Illustration of a black man sitting on the ground with a laptop open in his lap
Learn independently

Enroll in the Independent Learners group and complete the course with a community of learners interested in health equity.