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The Impact of Cultural Racism on Health Inequities among Different Racial Groups


Sep 11, 2023

A recent study conducted by UC Berkeley School of Public Health has found that racism expressed through cultural norms can have negative effects on the health of nonwhite groups. In the study, researchers examined sociological and racism research to understand the impact of cultural racism on public health. They concluded that cultural racism can lead to health disparities similar to those caused by overt and institutional racism.

Cultural racism refers to the widespread values and beliefs that normalize white socioeconomic power. This type of racism can be seen through the language, symbols, and media of dominant social groups. Dr. Eli Michaels, the lead author and health equity researcher, explains that chronic stress caused by racism can have detrimental effects on health. The body constantly has to adapt to the stress, leading to a chronic state of distress.

This chronic distress can result in various health issues, including an increased risk of chronic illness and even death. Additionally, the combination of increased stress and limited resources can lead individuals to engage in maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse and risk-taking, which further contribute to health problems.

These findings support previous research that demonstrates how discrimination exacerbates health inequities between white and nonwhite groups. The study also adds a new dimension by examining the correlation between cultural racism and its impact on public health.

The authors of the study recommend that future research should include measurements of cultural racism to gain a better understanding of its extent and influence on public health. In terms of solutions at the institutional level, Dr. Michaels suggests that corporate policies addressing harmful language and symbols can bring about change, such as the example of the NFL team Washington Commanders changing their name and removing offensive Native American imagery. Individual interventions, like workplace trainings promoting cultural sensitivity, can also play a role in addressing cultural racism.

Dr. Amani Allen, a well-known researcher in the field of race and socioeconomic health at Berkeley Public Health, played a significant role in initiating the seven-year-long study. The report was co-authored by Tracy Lam-Hine of Stanford University School of Medicine, Thu Nguyen of Harvard University, and Gilbert Gee of UCLA.

For more information, the full paper can be accessed in the Milbank Quarterly.

By Editor

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