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Expanding the Bounds of Public Health: A Learning List for Chicago and Illinois

Wesley Epplin
October 23, 2015
Health & Medicine Policy Research Group is pleased to share Expanding the Bounds of Public Health: A Learning List for Chicago and Illinois (Version 1), which includes books, films, audio recordings, and articles that focus on topics that are relevant to public health in Chicago and/or Illinois.

What do these resources have to do with public health?
Health & Medicine developed this list with the help of outside partners to promote understanding of the historical, political, economic, social, and ecological contexts of Chicago and Illinois. These resources have been valuable to our work, and we hope they will also prove useful for others working in public health and other health professions. In particular, we hope this list will be useful for those attending the 2015 American Public Health Association’s Annual (APHA) Meeting and Exposition, especially health professionals who work in Chicago and Illinois.
Many of the listed resources document and discuss examples of how money, power, and resources have been inequitably distributed by a variety of forms of systemic, structural, institutional, and physical discrimination, oppression, and violence via racism, classism, and genderism.  Some of these resources discuss efforts to redress such injustice.

Working toward health equity
Exploring the themes and topics this list touches upon is an application of eco-social theory and of the World Health Organization’s Conceptual Framework for Addressing the Social Determinants of Health, both of which point to the importance of understanding these contexts as a basis of analyzing levels and pathways of causation and distributions of power, which can help guide efforts to redress health inequities.i,ii To achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups—one of the national priorities set forth in Healthy People 2020—public health needs to expand the bounds of the field’s interventions and research to take into account and address these various overlapping contexts. We view this list as one tool to support this work.
Using this list
In approaching this list, we suggest that readers might begin by choosing one or two items and planning to work through some additional items of interest in the months and years ahead.  Discussion and dialogue has proven an important tool for us in collecting these resources so we encourage you to consider assembling a discussion group of faculty, students, and practitioners to help process the material and understand its relevance to current health inequities.  Some of these resources could also be integrated into public health coursework.

Contribute to this list
This list is not exhaustive, but rather a curated selection of learning materials that we have found to be useful and believe hold value for others in the field. It is a work in progress and we welcome submissions of potential additions to with “Expanding the Bounds of Public Health” in the subject line.  Also, we hope that this Expanding the Bounds of Public Health learning list might be a useful model for public health practitioners in other parts of the country to promote learning and understanding of the overlapping contexts that are important to our work.

Thank you to those who have submitted recommendations for this list thus far, which includes a handful of individuals who have worked with Health & Medicine in planning APHA activities, as well as some of our staff and board members. 

i Krieger, N. (2008). Proximal, Distal, and the Politics of Causation: What’s Level Got to Do With It? American Journal of Public Health, 98(2), 221–230.
ii Solar O, Irwin A. A conceptual framework for action on the social determinants of health. Social Determinants of Health Discussion Paper 2 (Policy and Practice). Geneva, World Health Organization, 2010.