From POLITICO: Tyson Brown is an assistant professor of sociology and director of the Center on Biobehavioral Health Disparities Research at Duke University.
The most important decision we can make today to improve population health tomorrow is to address structural racism and its harmful health consequences. Structural racism—i.e., the systematic exclusion of some people from resources and opportunities on the basis of their race—limits access to health-promoting resources for racial minorities, such as good schools and jobs, healthy communities and quality health care. It also increases their exposure to factors that are harmful to health, such as chronic stressors, discrimination and incarceration. These processes generate dramatic racial inequalities in heath in the U.S. and result in unnecessary suffering, premature mortality and excess economic costs of over $300 billion annually.
Reducing structural racism and racial health disparities will require bold actions, but these actions can take the form of cost-effective, race-neutral policies that would improve overall population health. For example, policy initiatives such as the Child Trust Account Program, Federal Jobs Guarantee, Criminal Justice Reform, and the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act would reverse the rising tides of economic and social inequality that are undermining our nation’s health. These policies would disproportionately benefit communities of color and go a long way toward achieving health equity, while at the same time improving the health of the U.S. population as a whole.