Tuesday, University of Wisconsin’s Distinguished Lecture Series hosted renowned medical journalist and disease expert Celine Gounder to discuss the relationship between health and social justice.
Gounder is a CNN medical analyst and clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at New York University.
Gounder has examined ways in which social issues intersect with public health matters, and during the event she talked about the ways that America’s history of race relations informs and contributes to our modern healthcare situation.
“What I’ve learned over the course of my career in medicine and public health is that history matters,” Gounder said.
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Gounder talked about the history of the Navajo people in the U.S. and the harsh and near genocidal treatment that the Navajo experienced as a result of westward expansion.
Gounder said the Navajo were displaced from their lands in a forced migration known as “The Long Walk” before being placed in the Bosque Redondo settlement. Gounder described the Bosque Redondo settlement as a “concentration camp” and said the mistreatment of Native Americans continued for decades.
Gounder spoke about how these historical issues continue to have ripple effects throughout the Native American population.
“Think of historical trauma as a complicated form of intergenerational trauma,” Gounder said. “The Navajo have seen this in spades.”
Gounder said Native Americans die at higher rates than other Americans, due to a wide range of a causes including coronavirus, suicide, homicide, motor vehicle accidents and alcoholism.
Gounder spoke about how the disparity in mortality rates between Native Americans and other groups can be explained by historical factors.
Gounder said there are parallels between the Native American story and the experiences of other racial and ethnic groups in America. She said that racism and other social factors have created disparities in healthcare treatment.
“Racism played no small part in determining who would earn the right to healthcare and [who] was considered deserving and who was not,” Gounder said.
Gounder said these disparities have become more apparent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Gounder also spoke about her previous work, saying that after years of research and clinical practice in coastal cities and overseas, she felt she had neglected large swaths of Middle America. Through in-depth research and a public-health focused podcast, Gounder said she discovered how the opioid epidemic was ravaging the Appalachian area.
When asked about COVID-19 in relation to the upcoming election, Gounder responded that Biden has close ties with the former White House Ebola coordinator, which will inform his policies.