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Am J Public Health. 2003 Feb;93(2):194-9.

Does racism harm health? Did child abuse exist before 1962? On explicit questions, critical science, and current controversies: an ecosocial perspective.

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Department of Health and Social Behavior and the Harvard Center for Society and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass 02115, USA.


Research on racism as a harmful determinant of population health is in its infancy. Explicitly naming a long-standing problem long recognized by those affected, this work has the potential to galvanize inquiry and action, much as the 1962 publication of the Kempe et al. scientific article on the "battered child syndrome" dramatically increased attention to-and prompted new research on-the myriad consequences of child abuse, a known yet neglected social phenomenon. To further work on connections between racism and health, the author addresses 3 interrelated issues: (1) links between racism, biology, and health; (2) methodological controversies over how to study the impact of racism on health; and (3) debates over whether racism or class underlies racial/ethnic disparities in health.

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