Addressing Systemic Racism in Nursing Homes: A Time for Action

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2021 Apr;22(4):886-892. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2021.02.023. Epub 2021 Mar 26.


Long-term services and supports for older persons in the United States are provided in a complex, racially segregated system, with striking racial disparities in access, process, and outcomes of care for residents, which have been magnified during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic. These disparities are in large measure the result of longstanding patterns of structural, interpersonal, and cultural racism in US society, which in aggregate represent an underpinning of systemic racism that permeates the long-term care system's organization, administration, regulations, and human services. Mechanisms underlying the role of systemic racism in producing the observed disparities are numerous. Long-term care is fundamentally tied to geography, thereby reflecting disparities associated with residential segregation. Additional foundational drivers include a fragmented payment system that advantages persons with financial resources, and reimbursement policies that systematically undervalue long-term care workers. Eliminating disparities in health outcomes in these settings will therefore require a comprehensive approach to eliminating the role of systemic racism in promoting racial disparities.

Keywords: COVID-19; Racial disparities; nursing homes; racism.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Homes for the Aged / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Nursing Homes / organization & administration*
  • Racism*
  • United States