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Public health officials: structural racism leads to poor health, premature deaths
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Protest against racism, June 2020, Jackson, Miss.
AP/Rogelio V. Solis

Public health officials in Mississippi are working to raise awareness about negative effects of racism on care and premature deaths. They say it’s a systemic problem.



Twenty percent more Black Mississippians than White die from heart disease according to the state health department. The American Heart Association of Mississippi, joined the national office in issuing a statement about the negative effects of structural racism on health and premature deaths. Jennifer Hopping is the executive director.

“We know that in certain parts of our state access to healthcare, access to healthy food, access to resources is limited. So our goal is really to help overcome some of those barriers,” said Hopping.

According to the organization racism is embedded in the nation’s social, economic and political systems through policies. Whether intentional or not, Hopping says structural racism fosters discrimination throughout society including in healthcare, housing, education and criminal justice.

“We know we have to start looking at some of those burdens to ever achieve our goal of health for all,” said Hopping.

Hopping says at the state level, they’re lobbying legislators to increase SNAP benefits for fruits and vegetables and urging officials to equip schools with water bottle filling stations because some communities don’t have clean water. Dr. Claude Brunson with the Mississippi Medical Association has released a similar statement. He says racism is a threat to public health.

“We’ve always known we had issues of unconscious bias where people are treated differently even though you may not consciously recognize it. Having training in unconscious bias will help them. It also has to do with not having enough physicians of color that understands the differences in different ethnicities throughout the population,” said Brunson.

Both organizations say raising awareness about structural racism is critical to implementing changes that ensure access to life saying healthcare for all.