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Structural Racism: Causes of Health Inequities in the U.S.


Racial health disparities - differences in health outcomes based on race - are rampant in the U.S., and many incorrectly assume these are due to differences in behavior or genetics. To understand these differences, and ultimately identify solutions to eliminate these disparities, we need to dig deeper and look at the root causes. We need to examine how our socio-political institutions have racial inequities embedded within their policies and practices. We need to re-examine history to learn how and why race was created and how it was used to advance the interests of whites. We need to examine how state violence is selectively used to reinforce racial inequities.

Learners in this course will be guided through these examinations in order to gain a deeper understanding of why health disparities exist in the U.S. and what will be necessary to eliminate these disparities. Answering questions pertaining to course materials will give learners the opportunity to self-reflect in an effort to deepen their thinking about health inequities.

Additionally, course assignments will give learners the opportunity to practice advocacy skills through the creation of writing products intended to convince decision-makers to change their perspective. To fix the problem we need to accurately diagnose it, and this course will help learners diagnose the root causes of the problem.

By the end of this course, learners will be able to:
- Describe the impact of structural racism on individuals.
- Identify policies and events that shaped current racial health inequities.
- Discuss how historical events contributed to current racial health inequities.
- Describe how inequities in institutions like schools, businesses, and policing contribute to current racial health inequities.
- Apply public writing strategies to work against racial inequities in health.




3 weeks



U-M Credit Eligible



  • Melissa Creary

    Assistant Professor in Health Management and Policy

    University of Michigan

  • Paul Fleming

    Assistant Professor of Health Behavior & Health Education

    University of Michigan

  • William Lopez

    Assistant Professor of Health Behavior & Health Education

    University of Michigan