Race, Racism and Health

Examining the connections between race, racism and health in the United States.

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A young woman puts her arm around a preschool boy in a daycare setting.

In numerous studies, dramatic and persistent differences in health among racial and ethnic groups have been observed across numerous important indicators of health in the United States.

For instance, some minority groups are at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, low birth weight or premature birth and other serious conditions. A baby born to a black mother has been shown to be more than twice as likely as a baby born to a white mother to die before reaching his or her first birthday.

How do race and racism affect health?

Research has shown that the impact of race on health stems largely from differences in access to resources and opportunities that can hurt or enhance health. Additionally, researchers have found that racial and ethnic discrimination can negatively affect health across lifetimes and generations.

Health varies markedly by income within every racial group, and racial or ethnic differences can be seen at each level of income. These patterns are seen across a wide range of health conditions. At the same time, findings from studies in the U.S. and other countries have found that perceived racial/ethnic bias—and the resulting toxic stress—makes an additional contribution to racial or ethnic disparities in health.

In connection with past and current Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) programs aimed at reducing health disparities and advancing health equity, this collection includes research findings and perspectives on the connections between race, racism and health. To reach a Culture of Health, we must both address the socioeconomic factors that affect health and lift the barriers of racism to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

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