Racism & Health: A public health perspective on racial discrimination

J Eval Clin Pract. 2018 Oct;24(5):995-998. doi: 10.1111/jep.12894. Epub 2018 Mar 6.


Racial discrimination has been increasingly reported to have a causal link with morbidity and mortality of Black Americans, yet this issue is rarely addressed in a public health perspective. Racism affects health at different levels: institutional racism is a structural and legalized system that results in differential access to health services; cultural racism refers to the negative racial stereotypes, often reinforced by media, that results in poorer psychological and physiological wellbeing of the minorities. Lastly, interpersonal racism refers to the persistence of racial prejudice that seriously undermines the doctor-patient relationship. After analysing these concepts with examples and relevant studies, this paper explores current literature. Racism as a Determinant of Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (Paradies et al, 2015) is the most recent and comprehensive research on the issue, yet it cannot be used to base public health interventions as it contains several limitations. Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity (Ferguson Commission, 2015) is a report that identifies 4 priority areas for framing public health interventions: Racial Equity, Justice for All, Youth at the Centre and Opportunity to Thrive. This study represents an important milestone in the application of public health on racial injustices, yet racism must be tackled with a sustained, multilevel, and interdisciplinary approach. In conclusion, this paper addresses how public health interventions can empower Black minorities and bring forward long-term policies. Racism is a structural and long-standing system that can be eliminated only with the collective effort.

Keywords: public health; racial discrimination; racism.

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American
  • Humans
  • Minority Health* / ethics
  • Minority Health* / standards
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics*
  • Public Health* / ethics
  • Public Health* / standards
  • Quality of Life*
  • Racism* / ethics
  • Racism* / prevention & control
  • Racism* / psychology
  • Social Justice
  • United States