Institute for the Study of “Race” and Social Justice

About the Institute
The Institute for the Study of “Race” and Social Justice is an initiative within the RWJF Center for Health Policy to address the pressing social and economic issues that affect the health and well-being of all Americans. Its mission is to promote the establishment of empirical, theoretical and methodological clarity about “race” that draws on cutting-edge thinking from multiple disciplines and diverse empirical traditions. The Institute is led by Nancy López, Ph.D. (UNM Department of Sociology), and seeks to develop ways of empirically measuring “race” and assessing racialization processes in order to develop strategies for ameliorating race-based inequality. Dr. López places “race” in quotes to underscore its nature as a socially constructed category of social status in particular historical contexts, rather than as a reified category that is essential or fixed.
Despite the fact that "race" is neither rooted in biology (or genetics) or fixed in time and space, racial inequality persists and often remains at the root of socioeconomic inequality, health disparities and other measurements of social stratification in the United States. Racism is a major factor in determining one's health in our society, as it translates into persistent stress, associated illness and prolonged suffering or premature death. Over the centuries, American Indians, African Americans and Latinos have suffered from severe racism in various forms, and they experience the poorest health status as a result.

Objectives of the Institute

  • Provide best practices expertise (i.e., empirical, theoretical, methodological) and consulting to researchers in the natural and social sciences seeking to incorporate racial variables and racialization processes and dynamics into their studies.
  • Provide expertise and consulting community members and policy-makers at the tribal, state, county and municipal levels for measuring (assessing) and ameliorating (addressing) racial disparities; create successful research partnerships between the university and surrounding local and national communities.
  • Foster an institutional context for ongoing scholarly conversations about the empirical, theoretical and methodological understanding and empirical study of "race."
  • Mentor RWJF Center fellows in their predoctoral, dissertation, and postdoctoral studies; career development of the next generation of scholarship on “race” disparities, equity and social justice.
  • Nurture research agendas of UNM faculty as they relate to mapping and interrupting racial disparities and promoting equity and social justice in health and community viability, education, law and criminal justice.

Downloadable content

Additional Information:

Please contact Nancy López,, (505) 277-3101

Below are a few national resources also advocating the importance of cultural understanding as it affects the health and well-being of all Americans.

  • The Aspen Institute - to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues.
  • About RACE: A Public Education Project
  • American Anthropological Association (1998) Race Statement
  • American Association of Physical Anthropologists (1996) Race Statement
  • American Psychological Association (2003) Race Statement
  • American Sociological Association (2003) Race Statement
  • Bridging Cultures and Enhancing Care: Approaches to Cultural and Linguistic Competency in Managed Care - is proceedings from a HRSA conference held in May 2002. Includes summaries of presentations on the effects of race and ethnicity on the delivery of quality health care, strategies for organizational change, and clinical issues when delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate health care services.
  • Casa Xelajú - offers classes and programs that are designed to promote cross-cultural understanding.
  • Center for Anti-Oppressive Education - works to prepare resources for members of educational communities interested in creating and engaging in forms of education that challenge multiple oppressions.
  • Compendium of Cultural Competence Initiatives in Health Care - prepared by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation in response to the many requests from the media and others to define cultural competency and identify efforts underway in this emerging field. Included are brief definitions for major terms, organizational descriptions of initiatives and a list of experts in the field.
  • Cross Cultural Health Care Program - serves as a bridge between communities and health care institutions to ensure full access to quality health care that is culturally and linguistically appropriate. The website contains definitions, tools and other resources.
  • Cultural Competence Training Template - is a suggested outline for a half-day training that teaches the basics about cultural competency to health professionals, whether they are students or experienced clinicians, developed by the UCSF Center for the Health Professions.
  • Culturally Competent Care: A Toolbox for Teaching Communication Strategies - is a toolbox of materials for teaching culturally competent skills needed for practical day-to-day encounters between clinicians and patients, developed by the UCSF Center for the Health Professions
  • Cultural Diversity: A Guide for Health Professional - published by Queensland Health, this guide features community profiles on Australian South Sea Islander, Bosnian Muslims, Cambodian, Chinese, Croatians, Greeks, Hmong, Italian, Latin Americans, Muslims from West Africa, Philippines, Samoans and Tongans, Serbians, Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, Vietnamese, Child and Youth, Torture and Trauma and Women
  • Cultural Profiles - provide generalized profiles on African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Middle Easterners and Russians.
  • "El Consultorio" - is a web directory that contains words and expressions pertaining in Spanish pertaining to health and medicine.
  • Ethnomed - contains information about cultural beliefs, medical issues and other related issues pertinent to the health care of recent immigrants to the US, many of whom are refugees fleeing war-torn parts of the world. Culture-specific resources address such diverse cultures as Amharic, Cambodian, Chinese, Mexican, Somali and Vietnamese, among others.
  • Hablamos Juntos - is an $18.5 million Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded program committed to improving health care access for Latinos with limited English proficiency.
  • Health Literacy: What Patients Know When They Leave Your Office or Clinic - is based on dialogue excerpts from a documentary film from the AMA Foundation about how physicians can help improve their patient's health literacy. It profiles several patients and how their literacy level effects medication compliance as well as access to health care.
  • Health Professions Education: Issues in Cultural Competence - is a list of recommended readings from the National Center for Cultural Healing.
  • The Kirwan Institute partners with people, communities, and institutions worldwide to think about, talk about, and engage issues of race and ethnicity in ways that create and expand opportunity for all.
  • Knapsack Institute out of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs is a summer institute focused on inequality and social justice.
  • Language Services Action Kit - was developed by the Access Project and the National Health Law Program as a resource to help health care providers and others ensure that people with limited English proficiency receive appropriate language assistance services in medical settings. The kit contains information on obtaining federal funding for interpretation and other language services for patients covered by Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program; explains federal laws and policies that require providers to offer language services; describes models that some states have adopted to reimburse providers for those services; and lists resources for additional information.
  • National Center of Cultural Competency - has a wealth of resources on cultural competency in health care and health professions education.
  • National Council on Interpreting in Health Care - is a multidisciplinary organization whose mission is to promote culturally competent professional medical interpreting as a means to support equal access to health care for individuals with limited English proficiency.
  • National Institute for Literacy - created by the National Literacy Act of 1991, the main function of the Institute is "to ensure that all Americans with literacy needs have access to services that can help them gain the basic skills necessary for success in the workplace, family, and community in the 21st century." The website includes a directory of literacy programs.
  • Overcoming Language Barriers: A Volunteers in Health Care Guide - is designed to give clinicians some guidance on serving limited English speakers, including tips on working with an interpreter.
  • Planning, Implementing and Evaluating Cultural and Linguistic Competency for Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Families: Implications for Systems of Care- provides guidance on the delivery of services and supports to children and adolescents with emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders and their families. Includes an activities checklist, definitions, references, and additional resources.
  • Providers Guide to Quality & Culture - this web site is designed to assist health care organizations in providing high quality, culturally competent services to multi-ethnic populations. It contains definitions, self-assessment tools and other resources.
  • RACE Project -the educational goal of this project is to help individuals of all ages better understand the origins and manifestations of race and racism in everyday life by investigating race and human variation through the framework of science.
  • Refugee and Immigrant Health  - includes cultural profiles on these communities: Bosnian, Cambodian/Khmer, Cuban, Ethiopian/Eritrean, Gypsy/Roma, Haitian, Indian (Asian, Iraqi, Korean, Kosovar, Kurdish, Laotian/Lao, Liberian, Mexican/Hispanic, Nigerian, Somali, Sudanese and Vietnamese  the educational goal of this project is to help individuals of all ages better understand the origins and manifestations of race and racism in everyday life by investigating race and human variation through the framework of science.
  • - encourages people from all walks of life to "fight hate and promote tolerance" by providing resources for parents, teachers, and kids.
  • Understanding Prejudice - has more than 2,000 prejudice-related links, searchable databases of social justice organizations and prejudice researchers, teaching resources, and interactive exercises.
  • What Is Cultural and Linguistic Competence? - this Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website contains definitions and links to guides on Planning Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services and Providing Oral Linguistic Services.
  • Center for Social Inclusion - For nearly a decade, the Center for Social Inclusion has worked to translate America's changing demographics into a new source of power and prosperity.
  • New Mexico CARES Health Disparities Center - The New Mexico Center for the Advancement of Research Engagement and Science on Health Disparities (NM CARES Health Disparities Center) is a National Institutes of Health and National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities funded center at the University of New Mexico.
  • Center for Reducing Health Disparities at Case Western Reserve University - Working to reduce health disparities through research, education, and community partnerships.