Tackling racism as a "wicked" public health problem: Enabling allies in anti-racism praxis

Soc Sci Med. 2018 Feb:199:181-188. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.03.028. Epub 2017 Mar 16.


Racism is a "wicked" public health problem that fuels systemic health inequities between population groups in New Zealand, the United States and elsewhere. While literature has examined racism and its effects on health, the work describing how to intervene to address racism in public health is less developed. While the notion of raising awareness of racism through socio-political education is not new, given the way racism has morphed into new narratives in health institutional settings, it has become critical to support allies to make informing efforts to address racism as a fundamental cause of health inequities. In this paper, we make the case for anti-racism praxis as a tool to address inequities in public health, and focus on describing an anti-racism praxis framework to inform the training and support of allies. The limited work on anti-racism rarely articulates the unique challenges or needs of allies or targets of racism, but we seek to help fill that gap. Our anti-racism praxis for allies includes five core elements: reflexive relational praxis, structural power analysis, socio-political education, monitoring and evaluation and systems change approaches. We recognize that racism is a modifiable determinant of health and racial inequities can be eliminated with the necessary political will and a planned system change approach. Anti-racism praxis provides the tools to examine the interconnection and interdependence of cultural and institutional factors as a foundation for examining where and how to intervene to address racism.

Keywords: Allies; Anti-racism; Black americans; Decolonisation; Ethnic inequities; Māori; Public health; Racism.

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • New Zealand
  • Public Health*
  • Racial Groups*
  • Racism / prevention & control*
  • United States