Nason Maani

2019/2020 Recent Returners

Nason Maani, Ph.D., M.Sc. PH, FRSA

Nason was an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Public Health and Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine before embarking on his fellowship. His research interests focused on the structural and corporate determinants of health, seeking to describe the various drivers and channels through which upstream determinants such as equity, the generation of knowledge and public discourse, and commercial actors, affect population health.

During his fellowship, Nason was based at Boston University School of Public Health, with his Harkness mentor Professor Sandro Galea, a physician and widely cited author and scholar in social epidemiology. Struck by the scale of inequity in the US and reflecting on his own life experience, Nason’s planned work shifted to encompass the links between inequality and health, and then as the pandemic evolved, how inequality and COVID-19 would intersect.

His main project was entitled COVID-19, Inequity, and Underinvestment in US Population Health. In it, through the development of policy reports grounded in population level data on equity and health, he made the case that underinvestment in US public health systems, and beyond that the large and worsening inequalities in the US, would exacerbate the damage wrought by COVID-19, and complicate efforts to prevent its spread.

During his Harkness year, with the support of his mentor, Nason also tried to bring his findings and evolving understanding to bear on the turbulent time in the U.S. through other public and academic writing in a variety of outlets. This included articles on the need for a greater understanding of the commercial drivers of ill health and inequity; arguing for US physicians to acknowledge the fundamental role of inequity in power and resources in health outcomes and advocate for non-health policies to address them (JAMA);  describing how a lack of compassion from leadership for the suffering of other countries and groups during the COVID-19 pandemic was depriving the US of a “sixth sense” of what was to come;  that health inequalities and underresourced public health infrastructures made the US more vulnerable to COVID-19, and would make the costs of containing it both high and inequitably distributed;  that the politics of “othering” was self-destructive, particularly when a pandemic was revealing our essential interconnectness; and that a failure to place disease prevention at the center of health policy was both costly and avoidable.

After the fellowship, Nason has remained in the US where he serves as advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation/Boston University 3D commission on data, determinants and decision-making, and is an Assistant Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where he is part of the SPECTRUM research consortium on the commercial determinants of health and equity.

Sincere thanks to Harkness mentor Sandro Galea, for helping to navigate an unexpectedly rich, challenging, and life-altering year. Research aside, to quote from Charlotte’s Web, “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.”