Health is a Human Right: Then and Now

On April 16, students in public health law, health equity and health literacy courses presented their research posters to over 100 faculty and students from across Georgia State University in the

Iris Feinberg (Ph.D.), Mathew Gayman, Stacie Kershner (J.D. ’08)

Health is a Human Right: Race and Place in America exhibit space.  Georgia State University has hosted the exhibit for the past year. Donated by the David J. Sencer CDC Museum, the exhibit examines the health inequities faced by low income and socially disadvantaged minority populations over the past 120 years and the challenges of achieving health equity.

The spring courses offered by Stacie Kershner (J.D. ’08), associate director of the Center for Law, Health & Society, Mathew Gayman, associate professor of sociology, and Iris Feinberg (Ph.D. ‘15), instructor of public health and assistant director of the Adult Literacy Research Center, incorporated the exhibit as a pedagogical tool to engage law and graduate students, culminating in  the poster presentations.

“Engaging in discussion with other disciplines helps students appreciate what others bring to the table and also to recognize the importance of their own role. The Health is a Human Right: Race and Place in America exhibit offered the perfect backdrop for this discussion,” said Stacie Kershner (J.D. ’08), Associate Director, Center for Law, Health & Society.

The students were asked to examine a public health problem ‘then’ and ‘now’ from the perspective of their own discipline as a way better understand what progress has or has not been made in reducing health disparities. The photographs, data and documents in the exhibit provided real-world context for the students’ research.

“Law is an important tool for improving health outcomes but it can also act as a barrier to addressing public health problems,” said Kershner, who taught public health law. “The exhibit allowed students to visualize the impact, both positive and negative, of laws and policies on populations as well as on individuals.”

Gayman reinforced the value of this assignment, noting that “At its core, sociology is interested in how social forces and structures not only influence human behavior and experiences but also how these factors serve as fundamental causes of health and health disparities.”

Adding the health literacy lens, Feinberg explained, “Health literacy is the way people access, understand, and use health information; although low health literacy affects a broad range of people in differing contexts, it is particularly over-represented in underserved and marginalized populations.”

“This was an exciting event. The value of the assignment was evident in the students’ enthusiasm and the energy in the room,” said Leslie Wolf, center director and an attendee. “Stacie, Mathew, and Iris deserve kudos for their creativity, collaboration, and teaching, which were on display throughout the event.”

Health is a Human Right: Race and Place in America is open to the public at Georgia State Law. Visit publichealth.gsu.edu/health-exhibit for details.

To extend learning beyond the limited time on display and location, visit an interactive, online version of the exhibit with additional materials, which the university will continue to build upon at library.gsu.edu/healthexhibit.