Senior Felixianna Marquez has started the Health Equity and Leadership (H.E.A.L.) club, after the creation of the public health and health equity major in Fall 2016, to create a space for students to discuss issues regarding health equity and promote involvement in the community.
The club meets weekly to read and discuss health related articles, share ideas for events and community engagement, and make health-related crafts and snacks together.
Health equity is an important issue to Marquez personally, and she believes that it is an important issue to focus on in the current political climate.
“This kind of political atmosphere has been harming people of color and queer people of color and low income folk for way longer than the Trump era,” Marquez said. “But with the Trump era, I feel like this club is especially needed right now to talk about what policies are happening, and how can we better aid people that are going to be directly affected.”
Marquez hopes that the club will not only reach out to the Mills community but to the greater Oakland community as well.
“I’m trying to get the club to be very localized, and get involved with a lot of local organizations and volunteer work,” Marquez said. “I’d love to see the club be something that the community sees as an ally, and not just the Mills community.”
Sophomore Opal Wilburn, H.E.A.L. club treasurer, urges students who are interested in health equity to come to meetings.
“If people are interested in discussing or learning about public health, they should come,” Wilburn said. “We’re really open to hearing what anyone has to bring to the discussion on taking care of oneself and one’s community. It’s a good place to talk about getting involved, and it’s a good place to learn or just listen.”
Biology professor and H.E.A.L. club advisor Jared Young was excited about the creation of the club, believing that it would supplement the public health and health equity major well.
“This program can’t solely exist in the classroom,” Young said. “In order to really get the full experience of what we hope students will get out of this major, some of that has to take place outside of the classroom.”
The public health and health equity major was started by Jared Young and Provost Chinyere Oparah to support students in STEM fields that also have a passion for social justice.
“We had seen this pattern of students who started out in STEM where they would come in and often be passionate about health equity,” Young said. “Often they would find those passions are addressed more directly in an ethnic studies course or sociology course.”
The program was created so students who found themselves straddled between their interests in both STEM and social justice could have a major that encompassed both.
“The focus on health equity makes the major very unique,” Young said. “There are other public health majors at colleges out there, but a major that really grounds health equity is special.”
Young defines the term health equity as the idea that health outcomes can and should be equitable across all populations.
“It shouldn’t be the case that your life expectancy or the quality of life with regards to health measures should vary depending on your race, ethnicity, zip code, or socio-economic class,” Young said. “But it does.”
H.E.A.L. meets in NSB room 208 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday.