How structural and interpersonal racism affects health outcomes

Unequal treatment shows up in a myriad of ways around pregnancy and more broadly in the health care system, according to “Under the Skin,” a new book on health and healthcare treatment.

In Michigan, Black babies are three times more likely than white babies to die within the first year of life. More startling, African American women are nearly two times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes.

Linda Villarosa is the author of “Under the Skin.” Photo credit: Nic Villarosa

More than 60% of these deaths have been found to be preventable. And this isn’t unique to Michigan — these trends are remarkably similar nationwide.

Black and brown Michiganders often face much starker structural and interpersonal challenges. They are more likely to breathe unclean air and to drink unclean water, while also being more likely to be outcast in integrated spaces.

Things like microaggressions — slights and comments that make people feel like they don’t belong or are not good enough — actually show up in health data. They lead to stress and other health issues most frequently for Black individuals.

“In America, if you are a Black person — or a person of color but particularly Black people — if you have to deal with discrimination day in and day out it causes a kind of premature aging, accelerated aging, which is called ‘weathering.’” — Linda Villarosa, author of “Under the Skin”


Listen: How racism shows up in personal health outcomes.

 


Guest

Linda Villarosa is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and author of “Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation.” She says daily indignations of racism and being treated unequally in the health care system create a world in which Black and brown people have poorer health and die younger.

“In America, if you are a Black person — or a person of color but particularly Black people — if you have to deal with discrimination day in and day out it causes a kind of premature aging, accelerated aging, which is called ‘weathering,’” says Villarosa.

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