October 4

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Epigenetics and Ubuntu, by Indira Martin

By heheals

October 4, 2020




Plenary presentation at the University of the Bahamas ‘Liberating Critiques’ conference, April 2019.

Social determinants of health, which include factors such as socio-economic status, employment, food and stress, have recently come to the fore as key mediators of health inequalities at the global and national level. Mounting evidence suggests that these social determinants of health impact health outcomes via epigenetic mechanisms, which turn genes on an off in response to environmental cues. Taking a public health view of violence, this video discusses violence, antisocial behaviour and other psychopathologies in adulthood, as a probabilistic outcome of chronic stress and/or abuse in a developing child. Stress can alter epigenetic programming in the child’s developing brain, leading to altered signalling in stress response pathways and potentially aberrant behaviours in adulthood. The World Health Organisation advocates for global and local interventions that decrease socioeconomic inequalities, increase the quality of social interactions, and increase quality of life. I argue in this video that this relatively new focus on social determinants of health and social/community health echoes the ancient Bantu philosophy of Ubuntu, meaning ‘I am because we are’; therefore I propose Ubuntu as a healing philosophy in public health.

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