New research examines racism in health care and how to address structural injustice

"White men would rather die, literally, from their own lack of access to health care than reform health care in a way that would benefit Black people or immigrants."


Reviewed by Emily Henderson, B.Sc.

May 4, 2022


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named racism as a serious public health threat, and University of Oregon philosopher Camisha Russell's latest research examines racism in health care and offers some ideas about how to address such structural injustice.


Russell decided to pursue the project during the summer of 2020, shortly after George Floyd was killed and Black Lives Matter protests were surging all over the country. Many people were reflecting on how to address racism and structural injustices.


When Russell was awarded the 2020-21 Barach A. Brody Lecture in Bioethics, she saw an opportunity to insert her research into the conversation.


The award is given annually to a scholar who has made contributions to the field of bioethics that hold clinical and practical value. It includes both the opportunity to deliver a lecture to large audience of health care researchers and professionals, and the opportunity to publish an article based on the lecture in the American Journal of Bioethics.


Russell said racism is embedded in the health care system in many ways and creates inequities in public health.


"Racism reduces the access to positive influences on health and increases the exposure to negative ones," she said.


Black communities experience higher rates of incarceration, separation of families, and negative relationships with law enforcement, she said. And communities of color experience higher rates of chronic stress due to constant exposure to discrimination.


Health care reform also is an issue exacerbated by racism. Russell points to research that found many poor, white men would rather die, literally, from their own lack of access to health care than reform health care in a way that would benefit Black people or immigrants.


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