Importance: In January 2021, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a values statement that acknowledged systemic racism and included a commitment to address racism and health equity in recommendations for clinical preventive services.
Objectives: To articulate the definitional and conceptual issues around racism and health inequity and to describe how racism and health inequities are currently addressed in preventive health.
Methods: An audit was conducted assessing (1) published literature on frameworks or policy and position statements addressing racism, (2) a subset of cancer and cardiovascular topics in USPSTF reports, (3) recent systematic reviews on interventions to reduce health inequities in preventive health or to prevent racism in health care, and (4) health care-relevant professional societies, guideline-making organizations, agencies, and funding bodies to gather information about how they are addressing racism and health equity.
Findings: Race as a social category does not have biological underpinnings but has biological consequences through racism. Racism is complex and pervasive, operates at multiple interrelated levels, and exerts negative effects on other social determinants and health and well-being through multiple pathways. In its reports, the USPSTF has addressed racial and ethnic disparities, but not racism explicitly. The systematic reviews to support the USPSTF include interventions that may mitigate health disparities through cultural tailoring of behavioral interventions, but reviews have not explicitly addressed other commonly studied interventions to increase the uptake of preventive services or foster the implementation of preventive services. Many organizations have issued recent statements and commitments around racism in health care, but few have provided substantive guidance on operational steps to address the effects of racism. Where guidance is unavailable regarding the proposed actions, it is principally because work to achieve them is in very early stages. The most directly relevant and immediately useful guidance identified is that from the GRADE working group.
Conclusions and relevance: This methods report provides a summary of issues around racism and health inequity, including the status of how these are being addressed in preventive health.