In February 2009, as part of the mission and commitment to address issues that impact communities color, UIC School of Public Health graduate students partnered with the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health to establish the 1st Annual Minority Health in the Midwest Conference. The conference came to serve as a platform for advancing research scholarship that impacts the eradication of health inequities in communities of color, as well as other underserved and vulnerable communities. With over 30 years of experience, UNC was an ideal partner for developing our program. Thus, in its first year the UIC sister conference was a success, drawing more than 100 abstract submissions and nearly 200 concerned students; professionals from a variety of disciplines including health, housing, and transportation. Since its inception, the conference has continued to grow and flourish, bringing over 300 professionals, practitioners, faculty, community members and students in the field to contribute to discussions, develop partnerships, and advance the policy agenda towards the eradication of health inequities in marginalized communities.
The colloquies of UIC, especially those originating from the School of Public Health, function as vehicles for a shared theology. Under the guise of dialogue propounded throughout our 2011 and 2012 conferences, this notion was reinforced, with panel discussants seeking to elevate the discussion by challenging and empowering the audience to engage in solution-oriented thinking. The 2015 conference sought to further build upon these efforts through sessions that addressed the new healthcare legislation, the Affordable Care Act, and how it is influencing communities of color, restorative justice for communities of color, and addressing mental health and substance abuse in communities of color.
Why we do this
The conference is beneficial to UIC because it provides students with a venue to develop partnerships and network with various stakeholders in academia and communities to promote actions that will improve the health and wellbeing of people of color and other underserved communities. It allows students and professors to highlight the work they have done to enhance the health of minority and vulnerable communities.
Through our programming, we seek not only to shed light on the health inequities that persist in our communities, but to build a task force of emerging leaders and professionals that will actively work towards viable solutions and policy development to address these issues at the local, regional, and national levels.
The Spring 2017 Minority Health Conference will consist of workshops, panel discussions, breakout sessions, and student poster presentations, mimicking the format of the 2015 conference. The outreach and planning for this conference will begin in Spring 2016, beginning with an announcement during the 2016 Minority Health Symposium. Current first year public health students will begin the planning process and continue during the Fall 2016 semester, aided by the involvement of incoming public health students. This combined effort will provide leadership opportunities for first year students to engage in the planning process and learn how to sustain the conference for future years. Utilizing this model of current first year students as leaders and incoming students on the committee will ensure a more sustainable conference planning process.