Racism Has Always Been A Public Health Crisis

Racial health disparities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have helped fuel the current protest movement.

Protest movements sweeping across the country have centered on police brutality, sparking renewed conversations around systemic racism.

“African Americans are put into situations where they have to go out and literally work themselves to death.” — Dr. Sherman James, Duke University

The pandemic has highlighted how racial inequities in health have played a major role in that tradition of systemic oppression. 

Listen: The history of racism in America’s public health system. 


Dr. Sherman James, a professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, says stress has played a major role in the racial health disparities evident in African American communities across America.

“African Americans are put into situations where they have to go out and literally work themselves to death just to survive and move forward and make things better for the next generation,” says James. He adds that racial health inequities witnessed in the COVID-19 pandemic exposed how destructive structural racism is and has helped fuel the current movement. Social mobilizations like the current one, James says, hold politicians accountable and can change collective public health outcomes and disparities. 

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