Necessary Conversations: Understanding Racism as a Barrier to Achieving Health Equity

Free E-Book

Necessary Conversations

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197641477.001.0001
ISBN 978–0–19–764147–7

From the Blog

Necessary Conversations: Talking Frankly About Race

Engaging in honest dialogue about race sometimes means lowering our defenses and acknowledging our feelings so we can walk together toward racial equity.

Read the blog post by Dr. Plough

We need to talk about race.

The story of our nation is one of justice and freedom, but the unspoken truth is too many people are shut out of equal opportunities because of the color of their skin. Civil Rights laws and advocacy movements have brought racial inequities to light, but have not solved urgent problems caused by structural racism. This inequity has led to wide-scale poorer health outcomes and shorter life spans.

Structural racism refers to the persistence of inequity in communities of color while others benefit from a disproportionately larger share of the nation’s resources. There is indisputable evidence that the impacts of this inequity are generational. Structural racism has led to a lack of basic healthcare, education, housing, and other needs for too many in our nation.

Authentic conversations about racial inequities are essential, difficult, and urgent. There are many forces that prevent people from talking about racism. Without honest reflections on race and the history of this nation, conversation and narratives often generate unproductive fear, shame, guilt, avoidance, and denial. We need to move past that to a place of healing and action. A book by RWJF’s chief science officer, Dr. Alonzo Plough, shows us how.  

Editor's Note: We incorrectly named the Central Park bird watcher George Cooper. His name is Christian Cooper.


Live Webinar—Book Talk: Necessary Conversations

Participants joined Dr. Alonzo Plough as he modeled how to talk about structural racism. The webinar offered insight into health equity as the operational focus on the Foundation’s work. Watch the webinar recording to understand how:

  • RWJF is embracing new research and evaluation strategies to measure solutions

  • Important it is to elevate the importance of narrative change

  • To create space for those with lived experiences to drive decision making

This webinar will be available in Spanish and English, and will be recorded for on-demand use through RWJF’s Communications Toolbox.

Necessary Conversations: Understanding Racism as a Barrier to Advancing Health Equity is edited by Alonzo L. Plough, PhD, MPH, VP, Research-Evaluation-Learning and Chief Science Officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The book, published by Oxford University Press, features a diverse set of voices, including Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of NAACP, Crystal Echo Hawk of IllumiNative, Gail Christopher, executive director, National Collaborative for Health Equity, among many other esteemed thinkers and doers.

The book is organized in three sections:

You May Also Like
A collection of research and perspectives on the effects of race and racism on health in the United States.
As health disparities in the United States continue to grow, RWJF's health equity toolkit provides resources, data, and examples of communities working to achieve better health for all.
In partnership with others, we are working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have.