About Us

HEI Staff and Faculty group

The Health Equity Institute seeks to foster innovation and community engagement towards a vision of a truly healthy society. We work from a social justice framework. Our work is guided by recent advances in social epidemiology and environmental justice, where health and disease are understood as socially and environmentally produced through structural forces of inequality. We seek to understand "upstream" inequities that contribute to eventual health disparities (Hofrichter, 2006).

We encourage theoretically sophisticated and methodologically sound intervention research programs that are aimed to not only reduce co-factors of risk, but also to support and enhance existing sources of resiliency and strength in the most impacted communities.


Established in 2006 under the leadership of San Francisco State University's President Robert Corrigan and Provost John Gemello, the Health Equity Institute (HEI) is a reaffirmation of San Francisco State University's commitment to the promotion of social justice. HEI is a response to the need for a campus-wide unit aimed at understanding, addressing, and ultimately eliminating health disparities through curricular innovation, faculty research, and community involvement in the promotion of health equity.  

Guiding Principles:

Equity and Justice Framework

We seek equity and justice to eliminate health disparities that are preventable, and actually are consequences of structural inequities and lack of political will. We are mindful of Hippocrates' observation that "protecting and developing health must rank even above that of restoring it when it is impaired," and ensure that the urgent does not blind us from the important (McGinnis and Foege, 2004). We aim to better understand the mechanisms by which inequities and injustice confer risk and to evaluate interventions that help people cope with those risks; create structural interventions that remove inequities; and promote policies that ensure social justice.

Multi-disciplinary Approaches

Our work is multidisciplinary and blends multiple disciplines including biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, cinema, nursing, policy, ethics, and economics in a broad array of studies related to health equity and health disparities. Our work focuses on multiple levels of analysis - biological, epidemiological, behavioral, social, structural, policy, ethics, and legal - to provide a comprehensive picture of health and the distribution of health risks, outcomes and strategies for intervention.

Community-Scientist Collaboration

Our work is collaborative and embraces the combined wisdom of both community and scientists. Our work is developed and conducted in close collaboration with communities, community-based organizations, state and local health departments, and other public and private institutions such as businesses and foundations. Our collaborations are deliberate, as we think it important to examine a phenomenon simultaneously from multiple perspectives to provide more complete answers to increasingly complex issues. Our collaborations with health departments are designed to insure that our work is relevant to public health and our collaborations with communities and organizations are designed to insure that our work reflects perspectives essential to insuring the relevance of the science.

Translational, Implementation and Effectiveness Research

We emphasize translational, implementation and effectiveness research. The gap between prevention science and effective practice has been well established. Much of our research focuses on what is needed to close that gap to try to achieve greater health equity. We emphasize research activities that help illuminate the strategies, factors, structures and processes that foster the effective adoption and adaptation of evidence based approaches in "real world" settings.