Police Brutality and Black Health: Setting the Agenda for Public Health Scholars

Am J Public Health. 2017 May;107(5):662-665. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.303691. Epub 2017 Mar 21.


We investigated links between police brutality and poor health outcomes among Blacks and identified five intersecting pathways: (1) fatal injuries that increase population-specific mortality rates; (2) adverse physiological responses that increase morbidity; (3) racist public reactions that cause stress; (4) arrests, incarcerations, and legal, medical, and funeral bills that cause financial strain; and (5) integrated oppressive structures that cause systematic disempowerment. Public health scholars should champion efforts to implement surveillance of police brutality and press funders to support research to understand the experiences of people faced with police brutality. We must ask whether our own research, teaching, and service are intentionally antiracist and challenge the institutions we work in to ask the same. To reduce racial health inequities, public health scholars must rigorously explore the relationship between police brutality and health, and advocate policies that address racist oppression.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans*
  • Female
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement
  • Male
  • Police / ethics*
  • Police / psychology*
  • Public Health*
  • Public Opinion
  • Racism*
  • Social Conditions
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Video Recording
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology