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Hastings Center News

Impact of Racism on Health Framed in New Briefing

A new primer frames the threat racism poses to public health, stating that health equity in general is compromised when any group doesn’t have the resources needed for health.

“Racism is especially a threat to the health of people of color, but as public health teaches us, we are all connected, and thus racism is a threat to everyone’s health,” writes Keisha Ray, an assistant professor with the McGovern Center for Humanities & Ethics at UT Health Houston, in a new addition to The Hastings Center Bioethics Briefings.

The primer, Racism and Health Equity, provides timely background now as the Centers for Disease Control is overhauling itself in the wake of its flawed Covid-19 response, which laid bare the disproportionate infections, hospitalizations, and deaths among Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people during the pandemic.

Racism threatens health equity by withholding resources people need for proper health based on morally arbitrary features like skin color, Ray says.

Ray writes that poor health outcomes can result from racism experienced inside and outside of clinical settings, and calls on the field of bioethics to lead the work to address  racism’s threat to health equity.

The health equity and racism primer is the latest in a series of highly accessible Bioethics Briefings, which are designed to help people better understand some of the most complex issues of the day. They are written by leading ethics and are nonpartisan, describing topics from a range of perspectives grounded in scientific fact.  Bioethics Briefings covers such issues as public health ethics; law enforcement and genetic data; environment, ethics, and human health; genomics, behavior, and social outcomes; end-of-life care; physician-assisted death; and abortion.  This free resource can be found at: