Presenter: Jennifer D. Roberts is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, School of Public Health at the University of Maryland College Park (UMD). Dr. Roberts is also the Founder and Director of the Public Health Outcomes and Effects of the Built Environment (PHOEBE) Laboratory as well as the Co-Founder and Co-Director of NatureRx@UMD, an initiative that emphasizes the natural environmental benefits interspersed throughout and around the UMD campus. Her scholarship focuses on the impact of built, social, and natural environments, including the institutional and structural inequities of these environments, on the public health outcomes of marginalized communities. More specifically, much of her research has explored the dynamic relationship between environmental, social, and cultural determinants of physical activity and using empirical evidence of this relationship to infer complex health outcome patterns and disparities among adults and children. Dr. Roberts is a member of the newly formed Nature and Health Alliance. Read more.
In 1906, W. E. Burghardt DuBois said “The health of the whole country depends in no little degree upon the health of Negroes” in an effort to discredit theories of biological racial inferiority and perpetuate an understanding that African American health was “largely due to the condition of living, rather than to marked racial weaknesses”. The work of DuBois, a prominent sociologist and civil rights activist, was particularly important during the early 20th century because the general and public health rhetoric of scientific racism framed a level of culpability among African American communities for the spread or worsening of infections and diseases, such as the 1918 influenza pandemic. Over a century later, the pathology of race still occurs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the glaring and unmistakable institutional and structural inequities of built, social, and natural environments.