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World’s First MPH Program in Black Health

June 28/2022

by Françoise Makanda, DLSPH

What should have taken 18 months was done in five, thanks to the leadership of DLSPH’s Black Health Lead, Prof. Roberta Timothy.

In Fall 2023, DLSPH will welcome its first cohort of 10 students in the very first MPH in Black Health program, which Timothy believes is the first in the world.

Timothy broke the news early with the community.

“I put the message out because when I think about the process, it’s emotional for me—and it’s emotional for me because this should not be, nor can it be, the only Master’s in Black Health that exists,” says Timothy who is also an assistant professor of Social and Behavioural Health at DLSPH.

“I don’t think I can fully feel the impact of that and the honour that lead me to this journey.”

The new program is inspired by DLSPH’s MPH in Indigenous Health. In fact, Timothy says that her counterparts at the Waakebiness Institute for Indigenous Health have been instrumental in helping her develop the program so quickly.

“Indigenous Health leads shared how they did their programming and proposal with us. I had a space to adapt and move forward to put Black health first. That’s solidarity work.”

Students will have six core courses alongside general requirements found in typical MPH programs which include quantitative and qualitative research as well as introductions to public health sciences and practicums.

Roberta Timothy

Assistant Professor Roberta Timothy Photo credit: Adam Coish

The core courses will include a sociohistorical overview of Black health, chronic diseases and reproductive health in a lifespan; decolonizing theory and methods in Black health research; transnational Black health policy and practice; and Black resistance in health, to name a few.

Timothy has ensured that community Elders will be highly involved in some of the courses which require a retrospective look. She has already secured support from community organizations to facilitate practicums and program coordinator Rochelle Parcells for administrative support.

While the program is open to everybody, Timothy is eager to include Black health professionals. For now, core courses will be reserved for the inaugural cohort, with some availability to all students at DLSPH. But with more funding and academic support for collaboration in Black Health, “hopefully, there are some other spaces where people can actually take those classes,” she says.

The program focuses on Black Health in its plurality as it will bring the perspective of the diaspora in all course elements. Timothy is eager to look past local health, citing the 1.55 billion Black people living worldwide.

“Everything that happens in the Black community and Black health, if you look at it globally, there’s a connection,” she says. “The program is really going to integrate some of those pieces.”

Timothy says she has had an immediate and wonderful response from the community. “There are MDs who are like, ‘I’m done my career and if I had this program, I wish I could do it. I still want to do it.’ I’m getting like, all these moving messages.”

While this program is new for Black health, Timothy is hopeful that these new developments will spur scholars at other universities to launch similar efforts as quickly as she unveiled hers.

“I really think it’s Ancestor-led. I could not do this on my own,” says Timothy. “If we look at our thousands of years of African traditions and the connections of what our people have gone through in the continent and the diaspora, this program could not be done in five months. I don’t take props for that.”

Applications will start by October 2022 and will end by January 2023.

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