Race, Racism and Health

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

View all items in this collection
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.

Resources for the Field

Achieving Health Equity

In a Culture of Health, everyone has the opportunity to live a healthier life, no matter who we are, where we live, or how much money we make.

Learn more

Related Content


What’s the Connection Between Residential Segregation and Health?

April 3, 2018

RWJF's Don Schwarz highlights the need to take steps that will reduce health risks caused by segregation and lead to more equitable, healthier communities.


New Narratives of Hope This Black History Month–And Beyond

February 22, 2018

More than 50 years after the civil rights movement, an RWJF-funded survey shows we still have a lot to do to reduce discrimination and increase health equity. Dwayne Proctor reflects on these findings in a search for solutions.


Discrimination in America: Solutions for Health

December 15, 2017

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is hosting a forum on January 16, 2018 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to discuss addressing discrimination in housing, education and policing and promoting health equity in their communities.


Why Discrimination Is a Health Issue

October 24, 2017

Social Scientist David Williams provides an overview of the physiological response to health-harming stress and why good educations or higher-paying jobs don't necessarily protect from its effects.


Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views

October 1, 2017

This series of reports from NPR, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and RWJF includes findings from surveys that ask people about their own personal experiences with discrimination.

A Humbling Moment

In a USA Today op-ed, Richard Besser, RWJF’s president and CEO, discusses changes that the Foundation is making to its annual Sports Award program to more clearly recognize racism and discrimination as factors in health.

Read the op-ed

Featured Program: Forward Promise

Promoting the Health of Boys and Young Men of Color

This RWJF initiative aims to promote opportunities for boys and young men of color to heal, grow, and thrive in the face of chronic stress and trauma.

Learn more