Engaging Public Health Critical Race Praxis in Local Social Determinants of Health Research: The Youth Health Equity and Action Research Training Program in Portland, OR-yHEARTPDX

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jul 4;19(13):8187. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19138187.

Abstract

The social determinants of health (SDH) have long been considered a core mechanism through which racial health inequities are (re)produced and incubated in the U.S. Moreover, scholars have expressly-and appropriately-named structural racism as a precursor to inequities associated with SDH. However, while research on racial health inequities-SDH-related or otherwise-continues to grow, communities of color remain grossly underrepresented as public health researchers and practitioners. Additionally, although SDH are experienced in a very local sense, much research and practice fails to more deeply and thoroughly engage and center local community knowledges. Thus, much work around SDH and racial health inequities presents, ironically, as structurally racist itself-being done/led mostly by White scholars and in ways that do not "center the margins". Moreover, in the context of public health practice, youth perspective is seldom centered within local health department (LHD) community SDH assessment efforts. With these challenges in mind, this paper introduces and discusses the development of the youth health equity and action research training (yHEART) program as a model for public health researchers/practitioners to engage public health critical race praxis (PHCRP) to better understand and respond to local SDH in communities of color. Specifically, we highlight the significance of PHCRP principles of "voice" and "social construction of knowledge" in advancing antiracism in research and LHD practice related to local SDH. First, we articulate core conceptual and theoretical groundings that informed the yHEART program's development and animate its ongoing training and research activities. Second, we outline the program's core training components and overall process, and provide some brief illustrative examples of work completed during the program's first iteration-yHEART PDX, Vol.I: Youth Participatory Research on Local Social Determinants of Health. We then close with a discussion that reflects on program strengths, challenges, and implications for SDH and racial health equity research/practice in light of growing calls for an antiracist public health.

Keywords: antiracism; public health practice; public health training; social determinants of health; social epidemiology; youth participatory research.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Community-Based Participatory Research
  • Health Equity*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Oregon
  • Public Health*
  • Race Factors*
  • Social Determinants of Health*

Grant support

The work reported on here was supported by an OHSU-PSU School of Public Health Catalyst Grant.