CU Population Center

Institute of Behavioral Science

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Merlin Chowkwanyun: “When All Health Politics Was Local”

February 26 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Merlin Chowkwanyun

Title: When All Health Politics Was Local

Abstract: This talk argues that one cannot understand the origins of health problems — and the success of solutions to address them — without analyzing the local context that surrounds them. We’ll examine battles over pollution caused by industrial giants, coal extractors and fights over the unequal distribution of medical care in major cities via deep dives — not ephemeral stops — in four localities: New York City, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Central Appalachia. In addition to arguing for the virtues of the local optic, this lecture will also analyze localism as a political practice, which was embraced by community health advocates in the mid-20th century, only to fizzle and confront new challenges a few decades later that remain today.

Bio: Merlin Chowkwanyun is the Donald Gemson Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University. He is the author of All Health Politics is Local: Community Battles for Medical Care and Environmental Health andis now working on a book called Who Dies?, to be published by W.W. Norton, which re-assesses how to think about the social determinants of health. He is also the PI on, an NSF-funded repository that uses novel data science methods to make available millions of once-secret documents on industrial poisons.


February 26
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Event Category:


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