Starting fall 2023, the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH) will offer a new Black Health program as one of its Masters of Public Health (MPH) offerings. The program’s first cohort of 10 students will engage with courses on topics such as Black health through a sociohistorical lens, decolonizing health research methods, transnational Black health policy, and Black resistance in the healthcare field. 

The addition of this program follows the introduction of DLSPH’s Indigenous Health program in 2018. The MPH Black Health founding director, Roberta Timothy, worked with the Waakebiness Institute for Indigenous Health to obtain approval for the program in one-third of the usual time according to a press release from the DLSPH

Program origins

Timothy has worked in the healthcare sphere for 30 years. In an interview with The Varsity, she said that creating and directing the program is the next step in her long service to marginalized communities. She hopes this program will teach new practitioners “to do work that doesn’t harm their communities but actually provides wellness and healing.” 

Race-based data demonstrates that Black people around the world continue to consistently experience discrimination in health care. In 2020, the Public Health Agency of Canada published an article recognising the systemic discrimination that Black people experience in hospitals and other healthcare institutions, which Timothy describes as a form of “health violence.”

“Many folks stop going to doctors because we feel like we’re not going to be treated well,” she added.

Timothy believes that this program is the first of its kind in the world. “It’s way overdue,” she said. “The next generation cannot suffer the same way.”

The Black Health program

Timothy consulted Black community elders — both from inside and outside academia — when creating the program. The creators of the Indigenous Health program, the only other minority-focused MPH offered by the DLSPH, allowed Timothy access to the proposal they created. According to Timothy, this helped her navigate the approval process for the Black Health program. 

In an interview with The Varsity, Timothy expressed her desire to “prioritize Black practitioners” when crafting the first cohort. Additionally, she noted the importance of teaching others who are also working to create a justice-centered healthcare system in solidarity with Black people.

She also highlighted that the six program-specific classes will include some space for students that are not enrolled in the program. Timothy hopes to expand the program but mentioned that the program’s size depends on “U of T putting money where their mouth is.”