Structural Racism and Discrimination: Impact on Minority Health and Health Disparities

A Holistic Approach to Tackling Structural Racism and Health Disparities

Structural racism and discrimination—systems embedded in society that lead to racial and other inequities—have profound effects on minority health and health disparities. However, research on racism and health has largely focused on interpersonal discrimination or on individual institutions.

In the Ethnicity & Disease supplement “Structural Racism and Discrimination: Impact on Minority Health and Health Disparities”, the editors and authors highlight the need for a broader approach—one that addresses the interconnected systems perpetuating racism and other forms of discrimination—to reduce health disparities.

The supplement presents research exploring the relationships between policies and practices (e.g., failures to pay employees what they have earned, inequities in mortgage regulation, treatment of immigrants) and health. Commentaries and editorials call for further research, as well as action to address structural racism and discrimination, providing recommendations for increasing focus on structural racism and discrimination, and outlining a framework for considering the experiences of different racial and ethnic groups. The authors identify future research directions, including research examining the ways that racism embedded in online systems contributes to health disparities. They also describe implementation of interventions in a local health department and in a school district.

Multidisciplinary research can help us better understand the effect of structural racism and discrimination on health. Research is also a crucial part of identifying and evaluating approaches to address the problem. The examples, insights, and recommendations in the supplement point to a path forward that could help society make progress toward health equity. The supplement’s wide range of topics mirrors the comprehensive approach required to consider and address health disparities.

This special supplement is sponsored by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Access the supplement

Page updated May 19, 2021