A third of Americans don’t see systemic racism as a barrier to good health even after communities of color have been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers say.
The new findings of the ongoing national survey conducted by the RAND Corporation with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation were released Wednesday.
Among the respondents, 42% do believe that systemic racism is one of the main reasons people of color have poorer health outcomes and 24% said they were neutral.
A total of 4,143 adults with household incomes of less than $125,000 were part of the survey aiming to measure attitudes and views toward health equity, civic engagement, systemic racism during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It really struck us that — despite the virus’s spread across the country to all types of communities — there’s not a consensus view on the effects of systemic racism. Respondents see the impact of low incomes and living in a rural community on a person’s health, but race isn’t viewed with the same gravity,” Katherine Grace Carman, a senior economist at RAND Corporation and the lead author of the report said in a statement.
Researchers noted that Black respondents (72.5%) are much more likely than White respondents, (33.2%) to believe that systemic racism affects the health of people of color.
“Our leaders need to understand that we have a lot more work to do to educate people about the root causes of inequities and then enact policies to ensure better health for all,” Carman added.
Medical professionals and public health leaders have previously said that racism, whether intentional or implicit, can help drive racial disparities in health.
Last month, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid-19 equity task force, said that Covid-19 has exacerbated existing health disparities.
“It is time for us to respond to the crisis of discrimination in healthcare,” Nunez-Smith said.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Black, Latino and Native Americans have disproportionately been hospitalized and died from the virus.
Several studies have previously suggested that experiences of racism or discrimination raise the risk of emotional and physical health problems, including depression, cardiovascular disease, hypertension — more than 40% of Black adults have high blood pressure — and even death.
The RAND Corporation survey also shows more than 70% of respondents see the pandemic as a moment for positive change and they “believe society should prioritize expanding access to health care and reducing income inequality.”
Nearly two-thirds of respondents also believe the government should ensure health care as a fundamental right, researchers said. White respondents are less likely (60.4%) than all other races and ethnicities (74.1%) to endorse that idea.