Focus on structural racism essential for advancing health equity

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Structural racism—discriminatory practices embedded in systems such as housing, education, and criminal justice—is a root cause of health inequities in the United States, according to a new paper by researchers from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Bard Prison Initiative. They argue that a commitment to addressing structural racism is needed in order to improve population health.

The paper is part of a special series published in The Lancet on April 8, 2017.

The authors point to examples of structural racism in policy and practice that contribute to poor health in minority populations, including discrimination in hiring decisions, tough sentencing laws for drugs, and residential segregation in neighborhoods with substandard housing and high crime rates. Solutions offered in the paper include community programs to address access to housing and health care, and criminal justice policy reform.

First author is Zinzi D. Bailey, ScD ’14, of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Harvard Chan authors are Madina Agénor, assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences, and Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology.

Read Lancet paper: Structural racism and health inequities in the USA: evidence and interventions (Registration required)

Read coverage of Lancet series: Rich Americans live up to 15 years longer than poor peers, studies find