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Report Racism as a Public Health Crisis

Racism as a Public Health Crisis—Perspectives on Healthy Aging

April 21, 2022


While law can perpetuate and reinforce structural discrimination, it can also create meaningful change by helping to identify and remove barriers to access, resources, and opportunity, and thereby advance health equity. This report uses a revised Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) framework put forward by Ruqaiijah Yearby to examine the role of law as a tool to address structural discrimination, with a focus on health impacts across the lifespan. This framework illustrates how law and the systems it interacts with can shape health and well-being, and identifies structural discrimination as the root cause of disparities in health outcomes.

This report reviews three legal and policy mechanisms – declarations of racism as a public health crisis, equity-focused legislation, and COVID-19 health equity task forces – as specific tools to address equity in aging within the systems that influence health outcomes. The report’s authors reviewed these tools using a healthy aging lens to identify language that recognizes, supports, and promotes healthy aging as part of addressing racial and ethnic health disparities.