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Racism as a Public Health Crisis

Communities across the United States are recognizing the role of racism in creating differences in outcomes for people of color and are committing to changing the laws, policies, and practices that create and reinforce racist power structures by declaring racism a public health crisis. Treating racism as a public health crisis means recognizing that it affects entire groups of people, not just individuals, and that proposed solutions must be focused on policy and systems change rather than individual behaviors.

While health equity is woven into all our work, the resources included here specifically address law and policy issues that directly impact health equity.

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A Closer Look at Health Equity and Racism

Health equity refers to the conditions in which everyone has the chance to have their best possible health.  A number of social and structural factors determine who has access to the resources necessary for good health.  These factors include the physical environment where people live and work; economic opportunity; quality education; safe and healthy housing; and social conditions like discrimination.  Laws and policies can create barriers to good health by creating unequal access and opportunity, leading to inequitable health outcomes for people across populations with a different race or ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or socioeconomic status. 

Racism creates barriers to health and well-being by creating differences in power and access to resources for minoritized or marginalized racial or ethnic groups.  Communities across the United States are recognizing the role of racism in creating differences in outcomes for people of color and are committing to changing the laws, policies, and practices that create and reinforce racist power structures by declaring racism a public health crisis.  Treating racism as a public health crisis means recognizing that it affects entire groups of people, not just individuals, and that proposed solutions must be focused on policy and systems change rather than individual behaviors.

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Explore the Network’s Legal Assistance Library to find answers to commonly asked questions on a variety of public health topics.