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JULY 23 - 8:00pm Social Determinants of Health: Closing the Life Expectancy Gap (Part 2)


  • Fernando De Maio - DePaul University

  • Wesley Epplin - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group and Collaborative for Health Equity Cook County

  • Judith Helfand - Director/Producer, COOKED: Survival by Zip Code

  • Brenda Rodriguez - Collaborative for Health Equity – Cook County


  • James Bloyd - Collaborative for Health Equity- Cook County

James Bloyd - Collaborative for Health Equity

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Jim Bloyd was drawn to public health because of its foundation in social justice. Since receiving his master’s degree from UCLA he has practiced at the local level in three public health departments, in California and Illinois. He is on the Steering Committee of the Collaborative for Health Equity Cook County, which is one of 19 teams in the National Collaborative for Health Equity. He is writing about the experiences and insights of health equity leaders for his dissertation at the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health.

Fernando De Maio, PhD - DePaul University

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Fernando De Maio, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Sociology at DePaul University. His research and teaching interests lie primarily within medical sociology and social epidemiology, examining structural and social determinants of health.  He is the author of Health & Social Theory (2010) and Global Health Inequities (2014), and co-editor of Latin American Perspectives on the Sociology of Health and Illness (2018) and, most recently, Community Health Equity: A Chicago Reader (2019).  His work appears in a wide range of journals, including the American Journal of Public Health, Critical Public Health, Global Public Health, the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, Health Sociology Review, the International Journal of Epidemiology, and the New England Journal of Medicine. He serves as an associate editor of Health Sociology Review. Fernando is the co-director of the Center for Community Health Equity, which was founded by DePaul University and Rush University in 2015. He is also a Research Fellow at the Sinai Urban Health Institute.

Wesley Epplin - Health Equity and Collaborative for Health Equity- Cook County

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Wesley Epplin serves as the Director of Health Equity at Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (Health & Medicine), a nonprofit focused on advancing health equity by improving the health of all people. He is also a member of the steering committee for the Collaborative for Health Equity Cook County (CHE). 

Since joining Health & Medicine in July 2013, Wesley has served as an advocate for health equity.  His work within the Center for Public Health Equity at Health & Medicine focuses on: 1) healthcare as a human right; 2) moving the health sector to apply a strong health equity approach to public health issues; and 3) joining with others to fight against all forms of oppression. His work includes analysis, advocacy, capacity building, and health organizing.

In 2016, Wesley and three other members of the CHE steering committee were selected to be part of the first cohort of the Culture of Health Leaders, a national leadership program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  His team’s Reimagine Health initiative is currently recruiting people to join the Organizing Health institute (OHi), which trains health workers in organizing to build power with communities demanding justice—and to apply a health lens to community organizing efforts. 

Wesley is also a co-founder of and facilitator for Radical Public Health, a group at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health that works to expand the role of the field in identifying and eliminating the many forms of oppression, violence, and injustice that contribute to health inequities.

Wesley earned a Master of Public Health degree in Community Health Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Public Health (SPH) and a BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Brenda L. Rodríguez, Steering Committee Member, Collaborative for Health Equity – Cook County

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Ms Rodriguez has had the honor of organizing in the workers’ rights movement for the past 8 years. After she graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she was a literary graduate student in Texas and a rank-and-file leader of the Texas State Employees Union. During the height of the Occupy Movement, she decided to leave her program and join the labor movement. Her background includes organizing with Unite Here! and Working America. During this time, she's organized film and dairy workers in Albuquerque, trained new organizers across the Western region, and created electoral analysis and strategy. She grew up in Little Village, an environmental justice community on the southwest side of Chicago and currently resides in Berwyn, a western suburb less than 5 miles away. Informed by these experiences, she currently volunteers as a board member for IXCHEL and serves as a steering committee member of the Collaborative for Health Equity - Cook County to raise awareness, build power, and address the environmental and health hazards. Currently, she consults on worker cooperative development with Centro de Trabajadores Unidos Incubator and works as the Community Partnerships Manager with the Chicago Food Policy Action Council. She recently graduated with her Master’s in Public Health from John Hopkins University and seeks to advance food sovereignty, health equity, and democratic workplaces. When she’s not a protest or reading, she enjoys eating churros with her family, playing scrabble, and going on hikes with her blue heeler.