Science - Technology

Why race matters for health

Hunni Media for Knowable Magazine, Knowable Magazine


The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone, but in the United States, communities of color have recorded a disproportionate number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. In this video, Harvard’s David Williams, a renowned scholar of the link between racial discrimination and health, explains why decades of inequality have left populations of Black, Latinx, Native American and others more vulnerable to Covid-19. 

“Although all Americans are in the same storm — we are in the same pandemic — but we are not in the same boats,” Williams says. “Those boats that have wealth, you are better able to navigate the storm. You’re better able to protect yourself … than those [in] very fragile boats — households that have no wealth.” 

Williams discusses how stress — be it economic, psychosocial, environmental or caused by facing racism — increases the risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, all of which are associated with worse outcomes in Covid-19. 

“Persons who report high levels of everyday discrimination are more likely to get diabetes. They’re more likely to develop high blood pressure. They’re more likely to become obese. So across a broad range of indicators…, we find that stress in general and discrimination [in particular] leads to poorer health,” Williams says. 

The solutions, he says, lie in recognizing the problem we are facing, and working to bridge what he calls the “empathy gap” that’s enabled health disparities to persist for so long. “The biggest challenge that we have is the fact that, to put it bluntly, we don’t care enough about the populations of color that are suffering this disproportionate burden.” 


This video is part of Reset: The Science of Crisis & Recovery, an ongoing series exploring how the world is navigating the coronavirus pandemic, its consequences and the way forward. Reset is supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Watch more videos from Knowable Magazine.


Republish This Article

Knowable Magazine is an independent journalistic endeavor from Annual Reviews.

Related Articles

Back to top button
Sign up for The Main Street Examiner's Morning Brief

Subscribe to the MSE Morning Brief

* indicates required

Email Format