Anti-Black Racism as a Public Health Crisis

Dr. Faith Fletcher, Assistant Professor of Health Behavior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health

For years, leaders in public health, including members of the American Public Health Association (APHA) have been calling for the recognition of racism as a public health issue. On their website, the APHA states that racism is a “driving force of the social determinants of health (like housing, education and employment) and is a barrier to health equity).”

This week, Dr. Elizabeth Yuko, Adjunct Professor of Ethics and Affiliated Faculty Member in the Center for Ethics Education at Fordham University, and Bioethicist and Writer (also, former Editor-in-Chief of the Ethics and Society blog) and Dr. Faith Fletcher, alum of the Fordham University HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute and Assistant Professor of Health Behavior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health discussed racism and public health in the Rolling Stone article, “Racism Kills: Why Many Are Declaring It a Public Health Crisis.”

In light of the police killing of George Floyd and the racial health disparities as a result COVID-19 pandemic, the mobilization to recognize racism, specifically against black people, as a public health crisis is gaining traction, according to Dr. Yuko.

 “Anti-black racism is engrained in the fabric of American society. Black people experience systemic racism — a chronic stressor — throughout their lifetime, which negatively impacts physical, emotional, and mental health,” says Dr. Fletcher. According to the APHA, as the article states, the stress associated with racism increases the risk for several chronic conditions including heart disease and diabetes.

She continues to explain, “Justice, which is central to the mission of public health, calls for examining racism in all systems, sectors and policies — including those related to healthcare, the economy, housing, and education — to promote health equity.”

To read the article, visit Rolling Stone or click here.

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