July Collaboratory: Black Women's Perspectives on Structural Racism Across the Reproductive Lifecourse




How do you measure experiences of racism? What about measuring the ways structural racism impacts our current lives? Some measures for structural racism have been developed but Black women’s voices have largely been missing from this process. Dr. Brittany D. Chamber’s research is seeking to remedy that by working to develop a novel measure of structural racism informed by the perspectives of Black women.

On July 12th, 2018, the California Preterm Birth Initiative hosted one of our largest Collaboratories to date, planned by Dr. Chambers and an incredible research committee featuring work that is addressing this issue head-on. The event, Black Women's Perspectives on Structural Racism Across the Reproductive Lifecourse: Opportunities for Novel Measure Development, took a community-based approach in the development of a conceptual framework of structural racism and discussed implications for the development of novel measures from the perspectives of Black women.

We were honored to host an incredible panel of birth workers, researchers, community leaders and advocates.

  • Helen Arega, MA | Program Director, SOLARS - Oakland, Preterm Birth Initiative, UCSF
  • Brandi Gates, IBCLC | Founder of BreastFriends & Breastfeeding Consultant, WIC West Oakland Health Center | Community Advisory Board Member - Oakland, Preterm Birth Initiative, UCSF
  • Brianne Taylor | Health Advocate, Black Infant Health - San Francisco | Benioff Community Innovator, Preterm Birth Initiative, UCSF
  • Loretta Scruggs-Leach, RN | Member, Central Valley Black Nurses Association | Community Advisory Board Member - Fresno, Preterm Birth Initiative, UCSF
  • Robyn Barron, MPH | MTPCCR Intern, UCSF
  • Moderator/Speaker: Brittany D. Chambers, PhD, MPH | Associate Professor, Epidemiology, UCSF California Preterm Birth Initiative


They shared quotes from the study and led group discussions where audience members shared feedback on major themes.  

"I think as a Black woman when you're smart, you are ambitious, and you are not afraid to like almost tell your White peers, your non-Black peers how it is, you automatically get targeted." (Preconception Woman, Oakland)

As the event came to a close and participants shared back the highlights from their table discussions, everyone was eager to learn what was next for this inspiring project. Findings from Dr. Chamber's study support the need for the implementation of local policy to dismantle structural racism experienced by Black women in Oakland and Fresno. Dr. Chambers and the study team plan to develop specific policy recommendations in collaboration with women and community organizations involved in the study. The study itself is set to be published in the upcoming year. 

The overwhelming success of this event points to the significant need for researchers to commit to involving and honoring local communities when designing and implementing studies. A redistribution of power is fundamental to effecting lasting change in health inequities, and this can start with how we define the issues we're facing.

Black-owned businesses used to support the event include:

See photos from the inspiring event on our Facebook Page.

News Coverage

Hear Dr. Brittany D. Chambers on KQED Forum discuss the role racism plays in birth disparities: Disparity Between Black and White Infant Mortality Rates Remains High.