Racism is bad for your health

David Williams-Diversity Dialogue
David Williams: “The deeply embedded racism in our culture has consequences for health.”

Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and other minority groups in the U.S. face disparities in education and income. Many lack access to healthy food and receive lower quality health care than whites. They also grapple with regular doses of discrimination. It all adds up to greater risk of disease and a shorter lifespan than whites, according to social scientist David Williams.

“The deeply embedded racism in our culture has consequences for health,” said Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an October 20, 2016 Harvard Medical School article about his recent “Diversity Dialogue” talk at HMS’s Armenise Amphitheater.

After outlining the historic and current state of health disparities in the U.S., Williams discussed some possible solutions. Health care workers could receive training to offset unconscious negative preconceptions they may have about minority groups, he said. And systematic efforts could be made to address the social and economic drivers of health disparities, such as poor housing, poor education, lack of good jobs, and lack of access to good health care.

Said Williams, “There are strategies that exist, there are communities that are doing it, showing that we can address all the social ills of racism at once.”

Read the article: Health Disparities: Talk explores the unhealthy truth about racism

Learn more

Racial discrimination and health (Harvard Chan School news)

Racial bias and its effect on health care (Harvard Chan School feature)

photo: Sarah Sholes