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Bruce Link tackles disparities in health care

Sol Levine Lecture at SPH October 24

While some evidence shows that Americans overall are becoming healthier, disparities in health care among various populations are growing. This reality was made apparent in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when horrific images of the suffering of impoverished African-Americans were shown around the world.

The 2005 Sol Levine Lecture on Society and Health, cosponsored by the School of Public Health, the Center for Society and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Health Institute at Tufts–New England Medical Center, will be given by Bruce Link, a professor of epidemiology and sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. He will discuss the causes and effects of health-care disparities at SPH at 5 p.m., Monday, October 24, in Keefer Auditorium, 715 Albany St. The lecture is free and open to the public.

“Health disparities are large and apparently growing despite enormous improvements in the American population’s health over the last century,” says Link. “Recent tragedies like Hurricane Katrina are revealing, with respect to both the extent of the inequality and the consequences such inequality has for health.”

Link’s work has focused on how and under what conditions social and economic inequalities are translated into health disparities. He has examined numerous issues in social and psychiatric epidemiology from a sociological perspective. His research has examined the mental health consequences of stressful occupational conditions, the prevalence of homelessness in the United States, the connections between mental illnesses and violent behaviors, the impact of social stigma on the lives of people with mental illnesses and their families, and social conditions as fundamental causes of health inequalities.

In this area of research, Link seeks to test the fundamental cause thesis, which says that socioeconomic status–related assets of knowledge, money, power, prestige, and beneficial social connections are flexible resources that allow people to gain a health advantage in diverse circumstances. He will address the reasons health disparities exist among those of varying races and socioeconomic status in our society.

The Sol Levine Lecture on Society and Health is presented each year in honor of the public health scholar and teacher whose breadth of interest covered the spectrum of sociology, with an emphasis on medicine and health. Levine was a member of the faculty of the three sponsoring institutions.


“Sol Levine is a hero of mine,” says Link. “He combined exceptional intellect with an unmatched capacity to organize and lead. This lecture will provide the impetus to try even harder to emulate the characteristics I admired so much in him.”