Race is often used as a descriptor of disease burden in epidemiology and helps to determine where health disparities exist so that they may be addressed through public health programs and policy. However, it is important to differentiate between race as a descriptor and race as a risk factor. Increasing evidence points to structural and institutionalized racism and racial trauma as risk factors that contribute to socioeconomic, epigenetic, and transgenerational consequences that result in minority health disparities.
Consider the following statement: “Race is not a risk factor and should not be used in public health data collection.” Discuss the ethical and public health implications of this statement. When might collecting data on race perpetuate institutional racism leading to health disparities and when is it necessary to improve public health? What structural and institutional factors in society contribute to racial health disparities? What policies and system changes are required to dismantle institutionalized racism and reduce minority health disparities? Consider ethical issues related to respect for persons, beneficence, and justice as described in The Belmont Report.
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