JUST HEALTH: Treating Structural Racism to Heal America

Black men have the lowest life expectancy of any major demographic group in the United States, as CDC figures affirm. Based on Census Bureau projections, the life expectancy for a Black American male born in 2020 is 74 years, nearly five years less than the life expectancy for a white newborn male. The death rate for Black Americans of all genders is generally higher than whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and homicide.

Clearly, there is a national health crisis among Black Americans. But is genetics the underlying culprit?

In JUST HEALTH: Treating Structural Racism to Heal America, author Dayna Bowen Matthew makes a strong, evidence-based case that Black and Brown Americans are disproportionally dying young because of structural inequality and racism. Dr. Matthew cites facts to support her assertion: prejudice and poverty continue to aggravates poor health and premature death among people of color across the United States.

Dayna Bowen Matthew, JD, PhD, is a recognized leader in public health and civil rights law.  She is Dean and Harold H. Greene Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School. A leader in public health and civil rights law, Dr. Matthew has also held many public policy roles, which include serving as senior adviser to the Office of Civil Rights for the US Environmental Protection Agency and as a member of the health policy team for US Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

She joins us for a discussion today to show how structural racism perpetuates prejudice and poor health by separating and isolating Americans by skin color; how structural racism reinforces poverty and poor health by keeping Black and Brown Americans in low-wage jobs; how structural racism compromises the quality of life for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, income, or wealth; why solving our national health crisis demands a systematic approach dismantling laws that sustain inequality and dehumanization; and how working together to end racial inequality and discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system, as well as fostering integration across society, will have a significant and sustainable positive impact on the health and longevity of Black and Brown Americans.

As Matthew stresses in JUST HEALTH, it’s important to expose the roots of these troubling issues and offer hope for a cure.

Watch Dr. Matthews and Mark here:


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