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Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH

Sharrelle Barber

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology,
Director of The Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements, and Population Health Equity

Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Urban Health Collaborative


ScD, Social Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
MPH, Health Behavior and Health Education, UNC-Chapel Hill
BS, Biology, Bennett College


Dr. Sharrelle Barber is a social epidemiologist and scholar-activist whose research— situated at the intersection of “place, race, and health”— examines the role of structural racism in shaping health and racial health inequities in Black communities in the United States and Brazil. Through her empirical work, she documents how racism becomes "embedded" in the brick and mortar and social fabric of neighborhoods and how this fundamental structural determinant of racial health inequities can be leveraged for transformative change. As a “Daughter of the South,” the insights from her research and scholarship are shaped by a lifetime of being in communion and community with Black people (to borrow language from bell hooks); bearing witness both to the collective pain endured and the collective power wielded in the face of structural oppression.

Dr. Barber serves as the founding Director of the Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements, and Population Health Equity which launched November 11, 2021. The Ubuntu Center’s mission is to unite diverse partners to generate and translate evidence, accelerate antiracism solutions, and transform the health of communities locally, nationally, and globally.

Dr. Barber’s empirical work and academic commentary has been published in leading academic journals including the Lancet, the American Journal of Public Health, and Social Science and Medicine. She serves as Principal Investigator on several externally funded research projects including the JHS Neighborhood Change Study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Based in Jackson, Mississippi, the study examines how structural racism shapes changes in neighborhood environments over time and the impacts on cardiometabolic outcomes for Black American adults in the Jackson Heart Study. She also serves as a co-investigator on several collaborative research projects including the Pan-American Data Initiative for the Analysis of Population Racial/Ethnic Health Inequities (PAN-DIASPORA), a transnational collaboration with colleagues in Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Cuba, and the United States.

Dr. Barber has lectured and taught nationally and internationally about the impact of racism on health inequities and serves on the Racial Equity Advisory Board and the Commission on Antiracism in Solidarity for the Lancet. She is also the 2023 recipient of the Sherman A. James Diverse and Inclusive Epidemiology Award from the Society for Epidemiologic Research and was recognized by Diverse Issues in Higher Education as an Emerging Scholar.

Through her public scholarship, Dr. Barber has provided expert commentary on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in Black communities and racism as a public health crisis for local, national, and international media outlets including the New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, NPR, The Nation and Al Jazeera. At the height of the pandemic, she convened a group of public health experts from the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, the UCLA Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice, and Health, and other academic institutions across the country to serve as an advisory committee to the Poor People’s Campaign, providing justice-centered public health expertise for the movement as it engaged in collective action and advocacy.

Dr. Barber received a Doctor of Science (ScD) degree in Social Epidemiology from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Bennett College.

Research Interests

  • Racial/Ethnic Health Inequalities in Cardiovascular Disease
  • Social Determinants of Racial/Ethnic Health Inequalities in Cardiovascular Disease
  • Community-Engaged Research
  • Geography and Health
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Spatial Analysis and GIS
  • Global Health
  • Urban Health


Schinasi LH, Kanungo C, Christman Z, Barber S, Tabb L, Headen I (2022). Associations Between Historical Redlining and Present-Day Heat Vulnerability Housing and Land Cover Characteristics in Philadelphia, PA. J Urban Health. 2022 Jan 25. doi: 10.1007/s11524-021-00602-6. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35076872.

Guimarães JMN, Yamada G, Barber S, Caiaffa WT, Friche AAL, Menezes MC, Santos G, Santos I, Cardoso LO, Diez Roux AV (2022). Racial inequities in self-rated health across Brazilian cities: does residential segregation play a role? Am J Epidemiol. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwac001

Tabb, L. P., Roux, A. V. D., Barber, S., Judd, S., Lovasi, G., Lawson, A., & McClure, L. A. (2022). Spatially varying racial inequities in cardiovascular health and the contribution of individual-and neighborhood-level characteristics across the United States: The REasons for geographic and racial differences in stroke (REGARDS) study. Spatial and Spatio-temporal Epidemiology, 40, 100473.

Gao X, Kershaw K, Barber S, Schreiner P, Do PD, Diez Roux AV, Mujahid M (2022). Associations between Residential Segregation and Incident Hypertension: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.

Lopes MS, Caiaffa WT, Andrade ACS, do Carmo AS, Barber S, Mendes LL, Friche AAL (2021). Spatial inequalities of retail food stores may determine availability of healthful food choices in a Brazilian metropolis. Public Health Nutr. Jun 25:1-12. doi: 10.1017/S1368980021002706. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34169811.

Forde AT, Sims M, Wang X, Barber S, Diez Roux AV (2021). The role of perceived discrimination in predicting changes in health behaviours among African Americans in the Jackson Heart Study. J Epidemiol Community Health. Jun 11:jech-2020-215998. doi: 10.1136/jech-2020-215998. PMID: 34117112.

Santos MID, Santos GFD, Freitas A, Sousa Filho JF, Castro C, Paiva ASS, Friche AAL, Barber S, Caiaffa WT, Barreto ML (2021). Urban income segregation and homicides: An analysis using Brazilian cities selected by the Salurbal project. SSM Popul Health. May 17;14:100819. doi: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2021.100819. PMID: 34041354; PMCID: PMC8142279.

Bilal U, Tabb LP, Barber S, Diez Roux AV (2021). Spatial Inequities in COVID-19 Testing, Positivity, Confirmed Cases, and Mortality in 3 U.S. Cities: An Ecological Study. Ann Intern Med. Jul;174(7):936-944. doi: 10.7326/M20-3936. PubMed PMID: 33780289. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8029592.

Barber S (2021). Silence is No Longer an Option: Reflections on Racism and Resistance in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Epidemiology, 32(1):133-134. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000001285. PubMed PMID: 33122567.

Barber S (2020). Death by Racism: Racial violence and racial health inequities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impact Blacks. Lancet Infectious Disease. Aug;20(8):903. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30567-3. PubMed PMID: 32738238.

Glover L, Cain L, Spuill T, O’Brien E, Barber S, Loehr L, Sims M (2020). Goal-Striving Stress and Cardiovascular Disease in African Americans: The Jackson Heart Study. Journal of the American Heart Association.

Mayne S, Loizzo L, Bancks MP, Carnethon MR, Barber S, Gordon-Larsen P, Carson AP, Schreiner PJ, Bantle A, Whitaker K, Kershaw KI (2020). Racial Residential Segregation, Racial Discrimination, and Diabetes: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study. Health and Place.

Lopes MS, Caiaffa WT, Andrade AC, Malta D, Barber S, Friche AA (2019). Disparities in Food Consumption Between Economically Segregated Urban Neighborhoods in Brazil. Public Health Nutrition.

Do P, Moore K, Barber S, Diez Roux AV. (2019) Local neighborhood racial/ethnic segregation and BMI:  A longitudinal analysis of the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. International Journal of Obesity.

Barber S, Diez Roux AV, Cardoso L, Santos S, James, SA, Toste V, Barreto S, Schmidt M, Giatti L, Chor D (2018). At the Intersection of Place, Race, and Health in Brazil: Residential Segregation and Cardio-metabolic Risk Factors in the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil). Social Science and Medicine Special Issue on Racism and Health Inequalities, 199:67-76.

Wang X, Auchincloss A, Barber S, Sims M, Griswold M, Mayne S, Diez-Roux AV (2017). Neighborhood Social Environment as a Risk Factor for Health Behaviors Among African Americans in the Jackson Heart Study. Health and Place, 45, 199-207, doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2017.04.002.

Barber S, Hickson DA, Wang X, Sims M, Nelson C, Diez-Roux AV (2016). Neighborhood Disadvantage, Poor Social Conditions, and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence Among African American Adults in the Jackson Heart Study. American Journal of Public Health, 106(12), 2219-2226. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303471.

Barber S, Hickson DA, Kawachi I, Subramanian SV, Earls F (2016). Double Jeopardy: Examining the Joint Impact of Neighborhood Disadvantage and Low Social Cohesion on Cumulative Risk of Disease Among African American Women and Men in the Jackson Heart Study. Social Science and Medicine, 153, 107-115. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.02.001.

Barber S, Hickson DA, Kawachi I, Subramanian SV, Earls F (2015). Neighborhood Disadvantage and Cumulative Biological Risk Among a Socioeconomically Diverse Sample of African American Adults: An Examination in the Jackson Heart Study. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. doi: 10.1007/s40615-015-0157-0.

Green MA, Kim MM, Barber S, Odulana AA, Godley PA, Howard DL, Corbie-Smith G (2013). Connecting Communities to Health Research: Recruitment Strategies and the Development of the Project CONNECT Minority Research Registry. Contemporary Clinical Trials. doi:10.1016/j.cct.2013.01.001.