, Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 84-97

Racism, Health Status, and Birth Outcomes: Results of a Participatory Community-Based Intervention and Health Survey

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Abstract

Many community-based participatory research (CBPR) partnerships address social determinants of health as a central consideration. However, research studies that explicitly address racism are scarce in the CBPR literature, and there is a dearth of available community-generated data to empirically examine how racism influences health disparities at the local level. In this paper, we provide results of a cross-sectional, population-based health survey conducted in the urban areas of Genesee and Saginaw Counties in Michigan to assess how a sustained community intervention to reduce racism and infant mortality influenced knowledge, beliefs, and experiences of racism and to explore how perceived racism is associated with self-rated health and birth outcomes. We used ANOVA and regression models to compare the responses of intervention participants and non-participants as well as African Americans and European Americans (N = 629). We found that intervention participants reported greater acknowledgment of the enduring and differential impact of racism in comparison to the non-intervention participants. Moreover, survey analyses revealed that racism was associated with health in the following ways: (1) experiences of racial discrimination predicted self-rated physical health, mental health, and smoking status; (2) perceived racism against one’s racial group predicted lower self-rated physical health; and (3) emotional responses to racism-related experiences were marginally associated with lower birth-weight births in the study sample. Our study bolsters the published findings on perceived racism and health outcomes and highlights the usefulness of CBPR and community surveys to empirically investigate racism as a social determinant of health.