Racial Equity

Unequal from the Start: Racism’s Deep Roots in American Medicine

May 26, 2021  • Aspen Ideas to Go

Throughout American history, racism has been embedded in health and health care. To justify slavery, scientists promulgated falsehoods about African Americans and health. More recently, social policies rooted in racism have led to less access to care, higher disease rates, and lower life expectancies for communities of color. Science writer Harriet Washington says structural racism is a well-oiled, perpetual motion machine. “Once the structure of racism has been installed — the mythologies, beliefs, and practices — then nothing else needs to be done to continue it’s onslaught on people of color,” she says. How can this system of inequality be dismantled? Harriet Washington speaks with Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, and David R. Williams, professor of public health at Harvard. Trymaine Lee, correspondent for MSNBC, moderates the discussion.

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