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UMich funds research on ‘anti-racist’ health departments

Research office at Big Ten university gave out a total of $450K in ‘systemic racism’ grants

A project that examines a “Racial Justice Impact Assessment tool” for local health departments to become “anti-racist” received money from the University of Michigan’s Office of the Vice President for Research.

The grant money came from a $450,000 pot of funds, which was distributed to six other “systemic racism” research proposals, according to the university.

Director of Public Affairs Kim Broekhuizen did not address College Fix questions about the grants and how they would fight racism, as well as questions about the other “diversity, equity, and inclusion” initiatives on campus. She deferred to the original university announcement.

None of the three researchers on the health departments project responded to two requests for comment sent in the past month.

The group of researchers also received money in 2021 from the research office to begin its study. They will now “pilot and evaluate the co-created Racial Justice Impact Assessment tool and training created as a result of their research.”

“In the first phase of this project, funded by the 2021 cycle of OVPR anti-racism grants, researchers partnered with the Washtenaw County Health Department to identify key opportunities and limits on anti-racist institutional transformation within local health departments,” the summary stated. The tool comes from that research.

The academics on the team have an interest in “anti-racism.”

Melissa Creary states in her university bio under a section titled “Bounded Justice” that she would like to create “an anti-racist public health department.”

“I center anti-racism and health equity in my research, mentoring, and administrative duties” wrote Creary further in her bio.

Whitney Peoples, a researcher on the project, states in her university bio that she “brings over 20 years of experience in feminist and critical race research, activism, and teaching to her work at the School of Public Health.” She also served as the school’s first DEI director.

Paul Fleming, another researcher,  “examines how to best integrate anti-racist principles into public health training and practice” according to his university bio.

The Fix also reached out to multiple researchers working on the other projects mentioned in the article and only one responded to questions about why their subject was of interest, how they saw their research being used, and the goal of their research.

Jennifer Bragg-Gresham, a researcher working on a study called “Unraveling and Mitigating the Impact of Structural Racial (‘Redlining’) on Chronic Disease Burden in Detroit using Geospatial and Mediation Analysis,” responded that the interest in this area was “understanding how the context of where people live affect their lives and health.”

“[W]e hypothesize that because of redlining, residential racial segregation was de facto perpetuated in the neighborhoods so assigned,” Bragg-Gresham told The Fix via email.

MORE: ‘Sexual racism’ skews dating apps, UMich professor says

“This historical practice has likely led to continuous hazardous exposures and has caused lasting repercussions on health through adverse social and environmental determinants of health,” she said.

She also gave specific examples such as food insecurity, barriers to quality healthcare, increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change, environmental toxins, and diseases.

Bragg-Gresham said the goal of the study “is to facilitate improvements in current modifiable [social and environmental determinants of health] factors, thought to stem from historical structural racism, to improve individual and community risk of poor health outcomes.”

“In the current work, our objective is to identify these factors through geospatially linking current residents living in past redlining affected districts in the area around Detroit, MI,” the professor said. Her also plans to “employ mediation analysis to make causal inferences to explain relationships between historic redlining districts and current health status.”

Bragg-Gresham said there are four ways the research could be used: First, to help “future research can focus on areas with the largest potential impact.”; second, to mitigate the effects of relining; third, inform and guide medical institutions; and fourth, to “further the national conversation on this topic” and affect public policy on the issue.

This is not the only racism and “diversity, equity, and inclusion” focused research the university is funding. In 2020 it spent $260,000 on “combating racism” and in late July of this year it announced plans to spend $80 million together with the National Institutes of Health for “DEI 2.0.”

MORE: Despite massive DEI efforts, UMich students report feeling worse about themselves

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About the Author
College Fix contributor William Hurley is a student at Hope College where he studies political science and theology. He is active in many clubs including Hope Republicans, Hope Catholics, and Students Cherishing Life. He has written for the Hope College student newspaper, The Anchor.