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Dr. Sean Valles publishes two new articles for public health journals

Dr. Sean Valles, Assistant Professor of History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science, has published two articles for public health journals. He coauthored both articles with UK professors of public health, whom he met while working as a visiting scholar at the University of Edinburgh in 2013.

The first paper titled, “Coupled Ethical-Epistemic Analysis of Public Health Research and Practice: Categorizing Variables to Improve Population Health and Equity,” was published in the American Journal of Public Health. The paper provides a model of how to design public health research and public health policies, taking into consideration that the design and the variables used will have both evidentiary and ethical dimensions. One case study in the paper is a critique of the FDA’s decades-long policy of prohibiting blood donations from any “male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977.” Dr. Valles and his coauthor argue that this policy treats any history of homosexual contact as a proxy measure of HIV risk and is ethically problematic because it stigmatizes gay men.

A month after this paper came out in digital form, the FDA announced that they soon intend to change their policy on blood donations from men who have sex with men. “I doubt our paper made a huge impact on that decision,” says Dr. Valles. “But it’s nice to have contributed to the effort that finally pushed a reform.”

Dr. Valles’ second paper, “Census categories for mixed race and mixed ethnicity: impacts on data collection and analysis in the US, UK and NZ,” was published in Public Health. The article reviews how the US, UK and New Zealand censuses attempt to categorize mixed-race and mixed-ethnicity people. Dr. Valles and his coauthors show how those attempts at data collection often fall apart in medical data management practices, where it is common to distort (e.g. reclassify mixed-race people as falling into a single race category) or discard the data from mixed-race and mixed-ethnicity people.