Advancing Racial Equity

En Español

For science.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequities in health care, income, housing, education and many other factors that influence health and well-being. These inequities are largely driven by racism and bias that are embedded in our systems, institutions, policies and practices. This structural racism results in a lack of access and opportunity, increased sickness and premature death among communities of color. Compared to white women, Black women (across socioeconomic status) are three times more likely to die within one year of childbirth.1 American Indian/Alaska Native, Black and Latinx youth graduate high school at rates significantly lower than white youth.2 In addition, Black, American Indian and Latinx Americans all have a COVID-19 death rate that nearly triples that of White Americans.3 The public health community must address racism as the key driver of health disparities.4

For action.
We must transform our systems and dismantle policies and practices that uphold racism and continue inequities. We must make racial equity central to health equity. Work with your local leaders to enact resolutions, policies and programs that address racism as a public health crisis. Urge your members of Congress to support health equity legislation that can help address the health disparities and inequities disproportionately affecting Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and Pacific Islander communities. Advocate for policies like hazard pay and eviction protections to protect communities of color from further disadvantage and displacement as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Apply a racial equity lens to all decisions about policies and programs.

For health.
Racism is an ongoing public health crisis that has played a significant role in widening health disparities.5 Racism shapes where and how people live, what resources and opportunities they have and directly affects the physical and mental health of people of color.4 “Weathering” describes how the stress coping with chronic toxic stress, from structural and interpersonal racism and bias, over a lifetime causes physiological changes. The result is accelerated aging and increased risk of chronic diseases and other adverse health outcomes, including premature death.6 Thankfully, many of these poorer health outcomes are preventable. For example, educating health care providers and hospital staff about racial and ethnic disparities in maternal outcomes, addressing implicit biases and improving quality of care through the implementation of patient safety bundles7 are important steps for reducing disparities in maternal mortality.8

For justice.
The fight for racial justice has continued well beyond the Civil Rights era and gained mainstream global attention in 2020 with the high-profile murders of Black Americans at the hands of police. We must build on the momentum of the 2020 uprising and Black Lives Matter movement with sustained attention and action by individuals, communities and government leaders to advance racial equity.9 Learn about the legacy of racism and its present-day impacts on health and well-being. Identify and address your internal biases and how you might perpetuate anti-Black sentiments or supremacy culture.10 Ask yourself how racism might be operating within your family, community and organization. Protect voting rights. Support grassroots organizations led by people of color. Ensure people of color are leading and/or leading decisionmaking efforts.11