Open Dialogue, More Research Needed on How Racism Affects Health, Columnist Writes
The U.S. needs "clear-headed talk and research" on the health effects of racism, writer Leigh Donaldson says in a Portland Press Herald opinion piece. According to Donaldson, "There has been a quickly emerging field of research that demonstrates that racism hurts the health of the body."
One such study, by Harvard University School of Public Health medical columnist and lecturer Madeline Drexler, "suggested that racism acts [as] a classic stressor in the same physiological ways as job strain and marital conflict; elevating heart rates, increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol and suppressing immunity," Donaldson states. Donaldson adds, "Like other social ills, racism can set off a wide range of bad effects, including over-eating, smoking, alcoholism and depression."
The "timing" of such findings is "noteworthy, as lawmakers and government officials begin to focus more on the racial disparities in the quality of American health care," Donaldson writes. According to Donaldson, the "problem" is that critics choose to "believe that these studies are preliminary and/or too controversial and that they have the potential of profoundly altering the way we look at the links between racism and health." Examining the links further "has met resistance from funding sources," according to Donaldson.
Donaldson concludes that the "health effects of racism are not going away," adding that further research and open dialogue on the subject could "create an open mind and heart about one of the most taboo topics in American culture" (Donaldson, Portland Press Herald, 11/26).