Racism is a Public Health Issue
Health Wise
June 16, 2020

Racism is a Public Health Issue

Public health ensures that the health of the population is protected. Regardless of colour, age, sex religious belief, etc.

Public health actions should not favour one group over another, nor should the actions discriminate against any groups.

Public health serves the interest of the entire population to protect us all from communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Health care is more than just treating the ill. There are many determinants of health, such as the social determinants that defines who have access, where they access care and when they can access care. The social determinants also define their ability to understand and get care.

Racism structures opportunity and assigns value based on how a person looks. The result of this creates conditions that unfairly advantage some and unfairly disadvantage others.

Racism can hurt the health of a nation by preventing some people the opportunity to attain their highest level of health. Those who are victims of racism may also have other vulnerabilities and so this further compounds the issues and hinders the attainment of optimum health for this group. The results are that people become unhealthy, risk factors perpetuate, diseases spread and become difficult to control. As a result, productivity falls and with this economic gains are reduced and other social issues such as unemployment and poverty kick in.

Racism may be intentional or unintentional and operates at various levels in society. It is a major driving force of these social determinants of health, like housing, education and employment and is a barrier to health equity and the move toward Universal Health Coverage.

In order for us to achieve health equity and ensure that everyone is healthy, and that we are all living in a safe environment, we must address injustices caused by racism. We must support actions at all levels to ensure equal opportunity for all. We must get rid of the false belief that any people are superior to others based on their skin colour. These injustices caused by racism can serve as barriers to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those related to health, such as increasing life expectancy, reducing maternal and child mortality and fighting against leading communicable diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.