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The Politics of Health in the U.S. South (2016)

The Politics of Health in the US South

March 17-18, 2016
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN

View full 2016 conference schedule.

Speakers included:
*Melissa Harris-Perry (Wake Forest Professor)
*Jesmyn Ward (American novelist and Tulane University Professor, winner of the *National Book Award for Fiction)
*Kenneth Robinson (President/CEO, United Way of the Mid -South, Physician and Pastor Emeritus of St. Andrew AME Church in Memphis, TN)
*Bryant Simon (Professor of History at Temple University)
And many others!

Panels included:
*The Politics of Health in the South (3/17, 2pm, Light Hall, Vanderbilt School of Medicine)
*The Poetics of the South
(3/18, 10am, Black Cultural Center, Vanderbilt University)
*Health Activism in the South
(3/18, 11:30am, Black Cultural Center, Vanderbilt University)
*Intersectionality in the South
(3/18, 2pm, Black Cultural Center, Vanderbilt University)
*Student networking breakfast
*Poster Session
And many more events!


Photos from Day 1 of the conference


Photos from Day 2 of the conference


Videos from the conference



All events were free and open to the public.

Click here for Vanderbilt visitor parking.

Click here for travel and lodging details.

Sponsored by the Vanderbilt Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, the Vanderbilt Trans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) initiative, the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University, the REAM Foundation, the Vanderbilt Divinity School, the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and Vanderbilt Creative Writing


Conference Rationale:

The health dichotomies in the U.S. South often reflect, amplify, and shape the political and economic tensions surrounding the politics of health in the U.S. writ large. Clinicians and scientists at many southern universities offer cutting-edge treatments and develop important new cures, yet many citizens lack access to the medical systems in which these scientists work. Southern states like Tennessee are home to major American health-insurance corporations, yet many hospitals face financial challenges linked to falling reimbursements, and many low-income areas effectively function as health-care deserts. The U.S. South also enjoys a relatively temperate climate, yet many states rank near the bottom on most major U.S. indicators of health-related behaviors linked to activity. Meanwhile, southern politicians debate whether a national healthcare system is a moral necessity or an egregious governmental overreach, with more inclined to the latter than the former position. And members of the populace often resist public-health messages about matters such as diet, smoking, gun control, or women’s health because of deeply-held beliefs about government interference in personal health decisions.  As such, the U.S. South represents the epicenter of the larger conundrum of U.S. health and healthcare: that a country rich in resources and expertise on aggregate levels falls short, and all-too- often talks past itself, on individual ones.

Central to the conversations we aim to foster in this conference is the belief that many larger questions facing the region (e.g., how can we find agreement in an age of acrimony? why do political values sometimes trump biological self- interest?) belie answers that rest solely in biomedicine, public health, or political science.  Southern attitudes about public health and its discontents also need to be understood, and empathically addressed, through awareness of such factors as historical beliefs about the scope of government intervention and autonomy, stigmatizations of race, socioeconomic class, sexuality, and gender, religion, epigenetics, urban/rural divides, structural inequities, and even differing regional modes of narration and expression—each of which influences the tone and tenor of southern health debates in ways that have profound political, social, economic, and biological implications.