Opportunities for Psychologists to Advance Health Equity: Using Liberation Psychology to Identify Key Lessons From 17 Years of Praxis

Scott C. Cook, Jelena Todic, Sivan Spitzer, Vicki Quintana, Kimberly Alecia Singletary, Tricia McGinnis, Shilpa Patel, Suzi Montasir, Andrea Ducas, Jaclyn Martin, Nadia Glenn, Monique Shaw, Marshall H. Chin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Health and health care inequities persist because the efforts to eliminate them have ignored structural racism, typically using a power neutral approach to diagnose and solve the problem. Critical theory can address many of the conceptual weaknesses of current approaches, help identify how racism operates in health care, and open the door for more effective individual employee and organizational actions to advance health equity. We apply Martín-Baró’s (1996) liberation psychology to lessons we learned through implementing a transdisciplinary national health and health care equity program. The program, which began in 2005, conducts equityfocused health services interventions and research, using the best available evidence to assist health and health care policymakers, payers, community-based organizations, care delivery organizations, and patients to transform and align their activities in order to advance health equity. It serves as a rare model to explore how misconceptions resulting from racist structures can hinder progress, even when everyone involved is highly motivated to address health and health care inequities. Liberation psychology guides our interpretation of the lessons learned and recommendations for the field of psychology. Psychologists advancing equity in health and health care should integrate liberation psychology and other critical theories into their own work. In addition, partnerships with other disciplines and communities outside of academia and professional health services are key to success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-226
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Psychological Association


  • critical theory
  • health equity
  • health services
  • liberation psychology
  • racism


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