Racism as a Disease and a Social Determinant of Health

As you are undoubtedly aware, our nation and our world are engulfed in mostly peaceful protests for an end to systematic institutionalized racism following the tragic death of George Floyd in police custody.

This is an unprecedented time for reflection, change, and growth in so many ways. Recognizing racism as a disease, the original pandemic that has been with us for well over 400 hundred years! Racism as a moral disease is deadly in many ways. The impact of COVID-19 has been worse (www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/) for individuals of African descent as well as other ethnic groups including Hispanics and indigenous peoples. The record numbers of folks from these communities dying are not new, they are a result of years of health disparities from institutionalized racism that has long gone unaddressed.

Health inequity has long been with us leading to unequal access to quality education, nutrition, and health care. Multiple studies have shown the impact of institutional racism and discrimination and I urge all of you to educate yourself to help advocate for a world that is more fair and equitable for all of us, no matter the color of our skin or our background.

Understanding the impact of racism as a social construct that has powerful negative effects on those who are discriminated against is important. Social determinants of health, defined by the CDC as the “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.”

We know that people with lower social and economic status such as those living in poverty have limited access to healthy foods, education and tend to live in unsafe neighborhoods all of which contribute to health. By educating yourself on the impact of Social Determinants of Health and Racism we can empower others and our community to become safer and healthier for all, contributing to real health equity and justice.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Dr. Shad

Dr. Shad (Farshad Fani Marvasti, MD, MPH) is a Stanford-trained medical doctor, associate professor in academic medicine, speaker, and author with expertise in nutrition and culinary medicine, wellness, public health and prevention.

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