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More Research Needed On How Racism Affects Health

Armen Hareyan's picture

Health Affects Of Racism

The U.S. needs"clear-headed talk and research" on the health effects of racism,writer Leigh Donaldson says in a PortlandPress Heraldopinion piece. According to Donaldson, "There has been a quickly emergingfield of research that demonstrates that racism hurts the health of thebody."

One such study, by Harvard University School of Public Health medical columnist and lecturerMadeline Drexler, "suggested that racism acts [as] a classic stressor inthe same physiological ways as job strain and marital conflict; elevating heartrates, increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol and suppressingimmunity," Donaldson states. Donaldson adds, "Like other social ills,racism can set off a wide range of bad effects, including over-eating, smoking,alcoholism and depression."

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The "timing" of such findings is "noteworthy, as lawmakers andgovernment officials begin to focus more on the racial disparities in thequality of American health care," Donaldson writes. According toDonaldson, the "problem" is that critics choose to "believe thatthese studies are preliminary and/or too controversial and that they have thepotential of profoundly altering the way we look at the links between racismand health." Examining the links further "has met resistance fromfunding sources," according to Donaldson.

Donaldson concludes that the "health effects of racism are not goingaway," adding that further research and open dialogue on the subject could"create an open mind and heart about one of the most taboo topics inAmerican culture" (Donaldson, Portland Press Herald, 11/26).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.