As part of our September Investigators’ Forum we held a public symposium with our visiting expert Professor Sandro Galea, Dean, School of Public Health, Boston University, along with Professor Katharine Gelber from the University of Queensland, and Professor Tim Soutphommasane from the University of Sydney, on ‘Hate as a public health issue’.
It was a fascinating discussion, but you might well have asked what this topic has to do with our core business, the prevention of chronic disease.
I certainly did when the topic was originally proposed.
However, the more I thought about it, the link between the well-established socioeconomic gradient in risk factors linked to social determinants of chronic disease and discrimination (a fundamental result of hate speech) appear strong.
Some of same groups within the Australian community that have the highest adverse consequence of chronic disease are the same that experience the highest level of discrimination and exposure to hate speech.
If we are to look upstream to social determinants in preventing chronic disease, I think we will increasingly need to look outside our conventional parameters. It is easy to postulate why discrimination could have impacts on chronic disease. An example is in the willingness of people to participate in programs aimed at prevention. Evidence shows that discrimination can influence what is discussed in medical consultations.
The Prevention Centre is building its interest in looking at a range of broader issues from physical environmental factors such as air pollution through to the whole concept of syndemics – the concept of the linkage between sustainability, economic development and chronic disease risks.
This is another aspect of our core rationale – systems perspectives on the prevention of chronic disease.