The Racial Health Gap


the NHS must act on racism.

In the US, there is a clear and obvious racial health gap. At the age of 25, a white American can expect to live 5 years longer than the average black person. The gap through education is even longer, the better off black person with a college degree r higher has a lower life expectancy than a white high school graduate.


Global expert on race on health, David Williams has said to call itself fair and equitable, the NHS must act on racism.


In 1997, Williams created the Everyday Discrimination Scale which launched a new scientific approach to social influences such as racism on health. What this showed was people who experienced every day racism, such as being treated like a criminal in a shop, or poor service at a restaurant will, over time have worse health, these include higher rates of heart disease, lower life expectancy and greater infant mortality.


Williams has said its time the NHS creates a kind of health observatory to see the disproportionate ways in which race has effects on its patients. It will be a long-term commitment to change the organisations culture to make the difference.


In the UK, research has found the racism received in day to day life has a direct effect on a persons physical and mental health. A study of young people in London found that “unlike other measures of adversity, perceived racism was consistently associated with poorer psychological wellbeing across gender, ethnicity, and age”


In recent times, voices from the UK have began to change and agree with Williams. Micheal Marmot, professor of epidemiology at University College London and director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity stated “My thoughts 10 years ago had been that the reason people of colour and indigenous people had worse health was because of the social determinants of health,” Marmot says. “In other words, you could explain it all through poverty.

“But my view has changed. Rather than explaining it away—saying we can explain healthcare inequality through social determinants—we should ask why there are these adverse distributions of the social determinants of health according to people’s ethnicity or indigenous status.” Marmot also goes on to describe how people of African decent have worse measures in the health parameters which are looked at.

We should all be pushing for health equality; this can only be achieved by having equality of opportunities and understanding in the NHS.


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