How Societal Inequality and Racism Impacts Health Disparities in the United States

A new study led by Quianta Moore, a fellow in child health of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas, finds that inequities throughout society influence mental health research, where they can become self-perpetuating and contribute to persistent disparities in mental health services.

The authors found that influences on the opportunity to be healthy include race, immigration status and political, economic and community factors. “In fact, social, environmental, and economic factors have a greater impact on health outcomes than clinical care, with 80 percent of health outcomes attributed to these social determinants of health,” the authors wrote.

“A critical, reflective review of the participation and contribution of the health care field to adverse conditions and community mistrust is necessary as a first step toward achieving equity,” they wrote. “We focus our inequity discussion on race because the social construct of race compounds and perpetuates disadvantage in the United States, and racial disparities exist in every outcome of individual and community well-being.”

“Not only are we not all equally healthy, but we do not all have an equal opportunity to be healthy,” Dr. Moore said.

Dr. Moore is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she majored in sociology. She holds a juris doctorate from the University of Houston and a medical doctorate from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The full study, “Improving Research Quality to Achieve Mental Health Equity,” was published in the journal Psychiatric Clinics of North America. It may be accessed here.

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