Activist Lab.

Catalyst for bold public health practice

Knowing how to create a healthier world is not enough; that knowledge has to be turned into practice. The Activist Lab is a catalyst for BUSPH to engage in bold new programs, drive policy and system improvements, and inspire public health leadership around the world. The health disparities highlighted by COVID-19 and the continuing presence of institutionalized racism make our commitment to the improved well-being of all populations—especially those less seen and less heard—more critical than ever.

The Activist Lab is a place to think outside the box: we bring everyone to the table; collaboration is our guiding principle. With our community and research partners, we launch innovative public health solutions to address everything from climate change and homelessness to water and food insecurity. Just two recent examples: Working with partners on and off-campus, we are developing courses—for all class levels—on how structural racism creates health inequities and how we public health practitioners can lead in bringing about positive change. And we will be working within the criminal justice system, in Massachusetts and across the nation, to return the right to vote to those incarcerated and to advance literacy, including teaching inmates how to tell stories about their personal experiences, which they can later use to advocate for their, and their communities’, health.

“We are called the Activist Lab and not the Activist Center because we see ourselves as a place where students, faculty, alumni, and staff to come to us and say, ‘This is what keeps me up at night. What can I do about it? How can I activate that in the world?’” says Associate Dean of Practice Craig Andrade (SPH’06,’11), director of the lab. 

This is what keeps me up at night. What can I do about it? How can I activate that in the world?

The pandemic has brought turmoil, but also opportunity. Today, the Activist Lab has stretched its vision of how public health can be practiced. Ever-more facile with technology, we plan to expand our reach, partnering on projects from bringing potable water to people in India to helping sex workers in Africa understand their own agency and ensure their safety.

“We can now be much more authentic partners with communities around the globe,” says Andrade. “By connecting with researchers, faculty, staff, students, and our community partners, we can focus both upstream, on broad-based preventive strategies, and on projects on the ground.”

Gifts to the Activist Lab can, among other things, provide “Impact Grants” micro-grants to fund student-led projects, support research and its translation into practice,  pay for new technology, or enable field placements for students.