2021-2022 Challenge Area
Health and Justice: 2021 - 2022 Center for Investigation
Co-Directors: Belinda Waller-Peterson and Kimberly D. Wynarczuk
The 1948/1949 World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” More recently, the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration added the dimensions of occupational/financial, spiritual/purpose, and environment to the original WHO dimensions of wellness. WHO also stated that “[t]he enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.” 1 (our emphasis)
On average, people live healthier lives, but the inequities between groups of people are the largest in human history. In the United States, we recently witnessed how racial and socio-economic inequalities contributed to higher instances of severe cases of COVID-19 and a disproportionate rate of mortality for persons of color. 2 Moreover, and the United States ranks well below comparable countries with regard to discrimination in the civil and criminal justice systems and access to the civil justice system. 3
This year’s investigative focus, Health, and Justice uses the 8 dimensions of wellness 4 to explore the larger question: What are the causes and consequences of health inequities? As a community, we will consider the ways in which emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, social, physical, spiritual, and occupational factors impact our individual and collective definitions and experiences of health in the past, present, and future. We will also engage the way racism (systemic, cultural, interpersonal) and discrimination threaten public health as reflected in The American Medical Association’s recent policy changes. 5
3 World Justice Project (2019/2020). Rule of Law Index.