Hello everyone! Today I am hoping to discuss racism in public health. According to the American Public Health Association, “racism is on ongoing public health crisis,” and as a public health professional, I hope to spread awareness and help advocate for meaningful, lasting change.
What is racism?
Racism is a social system or structure in which a dominant racial group, based on an ideology of inferiority, ranks people into social groups or ‘races,’ and uses these categorizations to devalue, disempower, or disenfranchise members of certain groups.
Racism plays a role in many inequities, including housing, educational and professional opportunities, access to financial and social resources, environmental exposures, and access to healthcare and medicine, among others.
I’d like to acknowledge that I am a white person, and therefore, I cannot comprehend the experience of racism, nor an I know what the experience is like. I wrote this post to help teach myself and others about the seriousness of racism as a public health issue, and to list some resources for those looking to learn more. Please feel free to comment with additional resources if you have them.
Below I have outlined a few examples of how racism impacts various issues of human health. This is absolutely not a comprehensive list, rather, it is meant to serve as a small survey of the different ways in which racism impacts health. I encourage you to read and learn more about this topic.
I also want to make it very clear that any health disparities mentioned in this post are a result of systemic and systematic inequalities, a lack of disproportionate exposures to risk factors, combined with inadequate access to resources due to our country’s systemic history of unequal treatment of minority populations, and absolutely not the fault of the populations that experience them.
Racism in America’s History and Health History:
Racism is deeply rooted in American history and culture. After all, much of the United States was built on salvery. And while slavery may be outlawed today, racism is still very real. It shows up nearly everywhere – from disproportionate levels of Black Americans facing mass incarceration, to the racially-driven wage gaps, medical bias, and segregated neighborhoods, racism persists as a driving force behind a multitude of inequities.
Racism has played a role in the US healthcare history. For example, the infamous Tuskegee Study of 1932 was an example of racism in medical research. The research team set out to investigate the course of syphilis over 6 months. They recruited 600 Black participants, and without informed consent or choice to leave the study, and studied their disease course over 40 years, and withheld known available treatment (penicillin), allowing participants to suffer and some to die, without their consent, for the sake of the experiment.…