Research Between Structural Racism and Health Disparities Calls for Changes in Healthcare Delivery

June 11, 2021 by Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

Structural racism is repeatedly linked to health disparities, but a new agency report outlines plans to address discrimination and improve patient outcomes. In a special 2021 supplement to the journal Ethnicity and Disease, "Structural Racism and Discrimination: Impact on Minority Health and Health Disparities," the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities published a series of reports exploring the relationships between policies, practices, and health. It also included recommended solutions, including outcomes from interventions in a school district and a local health department and future research directions (e.g., examining ways racism embedded in online systems can contribute to 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," institute leaders said in a press release. “However, research on racism and health has largely focused on interpersonal discrimination or on individual institutions.”  

The agency said that further research into reducing health disparities among health policies and practices would dramatically change the way in which health care is delivered in the United States. 

“Research is a crucial part of identifying and evaluating approaches to address the problem," institute leaders said. “The examples, insights, and recommendations in the supplement point to a path forward that could help society make progress toward health equity.”  

Racism is a public health threat, and organizations like ONS, the American Nurses Association, American Medical Association, and American Public Health Association are reviewing and recommending changes to break down barriers to health care for communities of color and other disadvantaged populations. Oncology nurses have a responsibility to end racism by promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce, supporting colleagues of all colors, and demanding a culture of kindness.   


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