A key piece of our professional training involves identifying and addressing the blind spots caused by our beliefs, backgrounds, cultural influences and preferred information sources. It’s crucial to do this if we want to build effective partnerships with communities and cultures that differ from our own. The consequences when we are slow to adapt can be grave, as they were 40 years ago, when the public health community didn’t move quickly enough to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and 10 years after that, when we struggled to address the crack epidemic.
Today, many public health experts are trying to develop connection and cultural competence to serve communities that are politically different from most of our own. We rightly celebrate that our field is more diverse than it’s ever been when it comes to race and gender. Yet in a 2018 survey, 72.4 percent of members in the Society for Epidemiologic