Conversations on Structural Racism and Resilience across the Lifecourse

Tune in as we engage cutting-edge scientists, policy experts, and thought leaders to better understand structural discrimination, resilience, and the impact on aging across the lifecourse. The podcast series features conversations with experts to explore the health disparities caused by structural discrimination and discuss programs and policies that aim to move the health equity needle. If you have guest suggestions, reach out to us at [email protected].


Sarah L. Szanton, PhD, ANP, FAAN

Sarah L. Szanton, PhD, ANP, FAAN researches ways to advance health equity through policy-relevant measurement and intervention. Szanton is the Dean and Health Equity and Social Justice Endowed Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Her three streams of research are on racial discrimination and resilience, developing ways for older adults to live independently as they age, and policy solutions for financial strain. She has received numerous honors for her work, including an NIH Pioneer award, the Heinz award and National Academy of Medicine membership.

Deidra Crews, MD, ScM, FASN, MACP

Deidra Crews, MD, ScM, FASN, MACP researches ways to mitigate disparities in the care and outcomes of chronic kidney disease. Crews is a Professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and holds faculty appointments with the Center on Aging and Health and Center for Health Equity, where she is Deputy Director. Her research program aims to advance equity in kidney disease and hypertension outcomes by focusing on social drivers of health inequities. An elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, Dr. Crews has received numerous awards for her research contributions, including the 2018 Johns Hopkins University President’s Frontier Award given to a faculty scholar on the cusp of transforming their field.

Podcast Episodes

Season 4 – 2024

Stronger Together: Resilience and Civic Action

This episode delves into the powerful connection between resilience and civic engagement that enables underserved communities to not just withstand systemic challenges but to emerge stronger. Our guest for this conversation is Dr. Hahrie Han, the Director of the SNF Agora Institute and a Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Han explores how grassroots organizations transform community engagement into political influence. Join us as we explore the juncture of societal structures, grassroots movements, and the enduring resilience of communities striving for a more equitable future.


Grandmothers, coaches, school nurses, barbers — what are the roles of non-traditional community leaders like these and what critical roles can they play in engaging historically divested communities and isolated individuals? How can art, imagination, and collective action model best practices for more equitable structures? We are joined by Marisa Morán Jahn, an artist whose work with low-wage workers, new immigrant families, and public housing residents has been described by the Chicago Tribune as exploring “civic spaces and the radical art of play.” She is Director of Integrated Design at Parsons/The New School and a Senior Researcher at MIT. We are also joined by Micah Campbell-Smith, a community developer who launched Black Pittsburgh Matters and has designed policies and trainings with New York’s Community Preservation Corporation and Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority.

For the past three seasons, we’ve delved deep into the critical issue of structural racism, shedding light on its complex web of historical, political, and social factors that contribute to its persistence. Another critical aspect of this topic pertains to the resilience and fortitude cultivated within communities in the face of structural racism. Our upcoming podcast season will feature scientists, policy experts, and innovators to shed light on the importance of building personal and communal resilience as a means of empowerment and healing in the face of systemic injustices.

Season 3 – 2023

Measuring the Immeasurable

The complex aspects of structural racism—encompassing policies, practices, and cultural biases—make it difficult to measure, often requiring innovative methods that account for historical and contemporary disparities. In this episode, we speak with Dr. Karen Bandeen-Roche, a distinguished biostatistician who has mastered the art of quantifying the unquantifiable. Dr. Bandeen-Roche guides us through her expertise in measuring elusive variables such as frailty and how this skill could illuminate aspects of healthcare’s structural racism. 


Shaping a Fair Health Landscape

In the realm of addressing health disparities and fostering health equity, the intricacies of socioeconomic factors and their profound influence cannot be understated. In this podcast episode, we welcome Dr. Laura Samuel, an Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, whose expertise in addressing socioeconomic disparities offers profound insights that contribute to the broader dialogue on health equity. Tune in as we explore the interplay of socioeconomic factors that shape health outcomes, and discover the transformative potential of this work in reshaping the landscape of health disparities.


Reshaping Systems of Discrimination

In this podcast episode, we explore how neighborhoods and the policies that govern those communities can reveal long-standing issues of racism within our society. Our guest, Dr. Odis Johnson, Jr. from Johns Hopkins University, is an expert in multiple fields, including health policy, education, and sociology. Dr. Johnson helps us understand how these issues have led to ongoing inequalities, particularly for marginalized communities. We discuss how past discriminatory policies still impact us today and why we need significant changes in our systems. Dr. Johnson also explains how these policies affect the quality of schools in different neighborhoods and their impact on students’ success. 


Roots of Inequity: Native American Health

From enduring the consequences of forced displacement and cultural disruption to grappling with inadequate resources and discriminatory policies, Native American communities have faced multifaceted challenges that have deeply impacted their ability to receive equitable and effective healthcare. Join us in this enlightening episode as we engage with Dr. Emily Haozous, a distinguished Research Scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Through the lens of her research, Haozous delves into the historical and systemic conditions that have limited healthcare access for these communities, uncovering deeply rooted challenges and disparities. Her pioneering contributions shed light on these critical issues, striving to bridge gaps in understanding and advocating for impactful change within these healthcare systems.


Navigating Structural Racism’s Terrain

Structural racism has attracted increasing interest as an explanation for racial disparities in health. But structural racism has often been measured using single-indicator proxies such as housing discrimination. This approach leaves important aspects of structural racism unaccounted for. We kick off season 3 with social epidemiologist and associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dr. Lori Dean. Dean is leading the way in exploring new definitions and methods to measure structural racism. Dean discusses her groundbreaking research delving into the influence of individual- and neighborhood-level social and economic factors on health disparities and outcomes for those managing chronic illnesses.


Season 2 – 2023

Unearthing Root Causes of Structural Racism

Structural racism is more than private prejudices held by individuals. It is embedded in institutional policies and practices that unfairly minoritize and disadvantage certain groups while advantaging others. Addressing structural racism then requires not only changing individual attitudes, but also identifying and changing those policies and institutions that foster a racial hierarchy. We are joined by trailblazer Dr. Zinzi Bailey, a social epidemiologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Drawing upon her extensive experience in quantitative and qualitative methods of assessing social determinants of health inequities, Dr. Bailey discusses how she uses this information to dismantle structural racism.

Adkins-Jackson PB, Chantarat T, Bailey ZD, and Ponce NA. Measuring Structural Racism: A Guide for Epidemiologists and Other Health Researchers. American Journal of Epidemiology. September 2021

Bailey ZD, Feldman JM, Bassett MT. How Structural Racism Works — Racist Policies as a Root Cause of U.S. Racial Health Inequities. The New England Journal of Medicine. February 2021

Bailey ZD, Krieger N, Agénor M, Graves J, Linos N, Bassett MT. Structural racism and health inequities in the USA: evidence and interventions. The Lancet. April 2017

Racism: A Huge Waste of Time

Time may be a social determinant of health that is influenced by racism across the life course. Unfortunately, time as a social resource is often not considered in most studies of health disparities. Dr. Gilbert Gee, Chair of the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Fielding School of Public Health, UCLA, joins us to examine racism through the lens of time, showing us how historically it has been stolen from racial and ethnic minorities. By more deeply considering time, researchers such as Gee are advancing our understanding of racial inequities in health. Join us for this candid, thought-provoking take on history and race that may make you reconsider your understanding of time and health equity.


Gee GC, Ford CL. Structural Racism and Health Inequities, Old Issues, New Directions. April 2011

Gee GC, Hing A, Mohammed S, Tabor DC, Williams DR. Racism and the Life Course: Taking Time Seriously. American Journal of Public Health. January 2019

Gee GC, Hicken MT. Structural Racism: The Rules and Relations of Inequity. Ethnicity and Disease. May 2021

Birthing Racial Health Equality

Blacks have the highest infant mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States. And the disparities are stark. Black pregnant people in the U.S. experience preterm birth at rates approximately 2 times that of White pregnant people and Black infants are twice as likely to die within the first year. In this episode, we are joined by University of Minnesota health equity researchers Drs. Rachel Hardeman and Tongtan (Bert) Chantarat who are working to change that pattern and advance reproductive health equity. By exploring replicable and theoretically sound measures of structural racism, these researchers hope to reveal evidence of its harm to maternal-child health and thereby identify pathways for intervention.


1.     Hardeman RR, Homan PA, Chantarat T, Davis BA, Brown TH. Improving The Measurement Of Structural Racism To Achieve Antiracist Health Policy, Health Affairs. February 2022

2.     Chantarat T, Van Riper DC, Hardeman RR, Multidimensional structural racism predicts birth outcomesfor Black and White Minnesotans, Health Services Research. June 2022

3.     Multidimensional Measurement of Structural Racism: Learnings from an Interview with Dr. Tongtan (Bert) Chantarat, Evidence for Action Blog. August 2022

4.     Hardeman RR, Chantarat T, Smith ML, et al. Association of Residence in High–Police Contact Neighborhoods With Preterm Birth Among Black and White Individuals in Minneapolis, JAMA Network Open. December 2021

Measurement Precedes Change

Structural racism is a core cause of health inequities. Providing evidence of that relationship requires a reliable method to measure structural racism. Frequently, measurements of racism are too simplistic and feed the false narrative that race, rather than racism, is the cause of racial health inequities. In this episode, Dr. Roland J. Thorpe, Jr., a gerontologist and social epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, joins podcast hosts Drs. Szanton and Crews to discuss a framework for assessing structural racial discrimination across contexts, geography, and the life course with the aim of dismantling structural racism and advancing health equity.


Thorpe RJ, Szanton SL, LaFave SE. Structural Racial Discrimination and Structural Resilience: Measurement Precedes Change. The Journals of Gerontology. February 2022

LaFave SE, Bandeen-Roche K, Gee G, Thorpe RJ, Li Q, Crews D, Samuel L, Cooke A, Hladek M, Szanton SL. Quantifying Older Black Americans’ Exposure to Structural Racial Discrimination: How Can We Measure the Water In Which We Swim? Journal of Urban Health. April 2022

Dean LT, Thorpe RJ. What Structural Racism Is (or Is Not) and How to Measure It: Clarity for Public Health and Medical Researchers. American Journal of Epidemiology. September 2022

To Measure is to Know

Drs. Sarah Szanton and Deidra Crews kick off Aging Fast & Slow Season 2 with guest Dr. Paris “AJ” Adkins-Jackson, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. One big question for health researchers is how to measure structural racism in different places and systems. Dr. Adkins-Jackson is among the leading number of scientists working in this area. She joins us to discuss her research on the health impact of structural racism and to provide recommendations for how epidemiologists and other health researchers can measure structural racism, including approaches taken by other fields. 


1. Adkins-Jackson PB, Incollingo Rodriguez AC. Methodological approaches for studying structural racism and its biopsychosocial impact on health. Nursing Outlook. September 2022

2. Adkins-Jackson PB, Chantarat T, Bailey ZD, Ponce NA. Measuring Structural Racism: A Guide for Epidemiologists and Other Health Researchers. American Journal of Epidemiology. April 2022

3. Adkins-Jackson PB, Jackson-Preston PA, Hairston T. “The only way out”: How self-care is conceptualized by Black women. Ethnicity & Health. 2022

Welcome to Season 2: Aging Fast & Slow

Tune in as we interview cutting-edge scientists, policy experts, and innovators as we seek to understand structural discrimination, and resilience across the lifecourse and the impact on health inequities with aging. Podcast guests will speak about their research or work, ‘aha’ moments, and next topics for exploration.

Season 1 – 2020

Trust: The Anchor of Health Equity

Wrapping up Season 1, Dr. Lisa Cooper stresses the importance of trust as a key ingredient for the patient-physician relationship, community engagement, and crisis response.

Podcast References:
Race, Gender, and Partnership in the Patient-Physician Relationship
Unmasking and Addressing COVID-19’s Toll on Diverse Populations
A Game Plan to Help the Most Vulnerable
COVID-19 and Health Equity – A New Kind of “Herd Immunity”
Twitter: @LisaCooperMD, @JHhealthequity, @JHUrbanHealth

Continue the Conversation:
Twitter: @agingcenter
Email: [email protected]

Episode 5 Transcript

It Takes a Village: Aging2.0

Episode 4 of Aging Fast & Slow highlights how business collaborations drive systems change to achieve social impact. Guest Stephen Johnston describes how Aging2.0 accelerates innovation through its global community and collective intelligence platform to improve the lives of older adults.

Podcast References:
Connect with your local Aging2.0 Chapter
The Collective
Aging2.0’s COVID-19 Request for Critical Topics and Innovations
Twitter: @sdbj, @Aging20, @TheA2Collective

Continue the Conversation:
Twitter: @agingcenter
Email: [email protected]

Aging Fast & Slow Episode 4 Transcript

Kidney Health Equity: We’re All Invested

Even amid the COVID-19 outbreak, chronic conditions don’t take a break. In honor of National Kidney Month, we talk to Aging Fast & Slow’s own Dr. Deidra Crews, a nephrologist at Johns Hopkins. She tells us how kidney health inequities impact us all and how common they are. Dr. Crews also helps us understand what epidemiology and intervention research are, how they differ, and how she uses both in her work.

Podcast References:

5 Plus Nuts & Beans for Kidneys Study
Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity
Twitter: @DrDeidraCrews

Continue the Conversation:

Twitter: @agingcenter Email: [email protected]

Episode 3 Transcript

No Longer Seeing Double

Summary: Dr. Keith Whitfield, an expert in aging among African Americans and the Provost at Wayne State University, joins hosts Dr. Sarah Szanton and Dr. Deidra Crews for the second episode of Aging Fast & Slow. Together they discuss the impact of desegregation on cognition by looking at stress and longevity within and among African American families. Podcast References:

Education in Time: Cohort Differences in Educational Attainment in African-American Twins
Education Desegregation and Cognitive Change in African American Older Adults
Book recommendations
Handbook of Minority Aging by Keith Whitfield and Tamara Baker
Continue the Conversation:Twitter:@agingcenter

Email: [email protected]
Episode 2 Transcript

Social Genomics and Social Justice

Hosts Dr. Sarah Szanton and Dr. Deidra Crews kick off Aging Fast & Slow with guest Dr. Elissa Epel, professor of psychiatry at UCSF. Dr. Epel’s research seeks to understand the root of health disparities, and the role of chronic stress within aging. Together they unpack her recent work which reveals how the impact of systemic oppression is transmitted intergenerationally. Podcast References:Sign up: UCSF’s Aging, Metabolism, & Emotional Research newsletter

Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress
Racial discrimination and telomere shortening among African Americans: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study
Can Childhood Adversity Affect Telomeres of the Next Generation? Possible Mechanisms, Implications, and Next-Generation Research
More than a feeling: A unified view of stress measurement for population science.
Continue the Conversation:Twitter: @agingcenter
    [email protected]

AgingFast & Slow Episode 1 Transcript


This podcast is supported by the National Institute On Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number DP1AG069874. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.