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Public Health’s Approach to Systemic Racism: a Systematic Literature Review



Recently, public health has acknowledged racism as a social determinant of health. Much evidence exists on the impact of individual-level racism and discrimination, with little to no examination of racism from the standpoint of systems and structures. The purpose of this systematic literature review is to analyze the extent to which public health currently addresses systemic racism in the published literature.


Utilizing the PRISMA guidelines, this review examines three widely used databases to examine published literature covering the topic as well as implications for future research and practice.


A total of 85 articles were included in the review analysis after meeting study criteria.


Across numerous articles, the terms racism and systemic racism are largely absent. A critical need exists for an examination of the historical impact of systemic racism on the social determinants of health and health of marginalized populations.

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Correspondence to Billie Castle.

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Castle, B., Wendel, M., Kerr, J. et al. Public Health’s Approach to Systemic Racism: a Systematic Literature Review. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 6, 27–36 (2019).

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  • Systemic racism
  • Systematic review
  • Health equity
  • Health disparity gaps