Ethnic inequalities in health: the impact of racism

Author(s): Saffron Karlsen;  

Briefing series: Better Health Briefing Paper 3

Publisher: Race Equality Foundation

Publication date: March 2007

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Ethnic inequalities in health: the impact of racism
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This paper aims to present the evidence for the relationship between racism and health, acknowledging that different individuals will respond differently to racist harassment. It also highlights the need, and possibilities, for service improvement, both for the victims of racism and for people from minority ethnic groups more generally.

Key messages:

  • People from minority ethnic groups experience poor treatment due to the negative attitudes of others regarding their character or abilities. This occurs in their day-to-day interactions with other people as well as in their access to and interactions with services. Racist attitudes have been shown to affect health in a variety of ways. Understanding these processes is important for the development of effective policies to reduce the health disadvantage experienced by people from minority ethnic groups in the UK
  • People respond to racist experiences in different ways. This makes evidence of victimisation difficult to establish. In addition, the particular form it takes and victims' responses to it have an important influence on the health impact of victimisation
  • Services have an important role to play: as a domain for racist experiences and as a source of support for victims. There is evidence that the responses of services to victimisation can influence its health effect, in both good and bad ways
  • Encouraging trust among service users and minority ethnic communities is important for establishing a supportive and protective environment for those potentially at risk of victimisation. There is also a need for service improvement to address exclusion, even in the absence of evidence of racism

Sections:

  • Racism can manifest itself in a variety of ways
  • The responses of victims to racism may influence its health impact
  • Support services may discourage the reporting of racist incidents
  • Services must do more to address exclusion