Social Injustice and Public Health

Social Injustice and Public Health

Social Injustice and Public Health

Social Injustice and Public Health


Two past presidents of the American Public Health Association have edited this book, on the ways in which social injustice causes and contributes to public health problems. Their previous books,War and Public Healthand errorism and Public Health, both dealt with specific issues of social injustice as they relate to public health. The current book addresses a broader set of issues in a more comprehensive manner.
This book defines social injustice as the denial or violation of economic, sociocultural, political, civil, or human rights of specific populations or groups in society. These groups are socially defined in terms of racial or ethnic status, language, country of origin, socioeconomic status, age, gender, sexual orientation or other perceived group characterisitics. Social injustice manifests in many ways ranging from various forms of overt discrimination to the wide gaps between the "haves" and the "have-nots" within a country or between richer and poorer countries. It increases the prevalence of risk factors and hazardous exposures, which in turn lead to higher rates of disease, injury, disability, and premature death.

Public health professionals as well as students need to have a clear understanding of social injustice in order to address these problems, but few books address such a wide range of issues. This book will enable readers to understand social injustice and will prepare them to recognize, document, investigate, and prevent social injustice and its effects on health. This book is organized so that health professionals, students in the health professions, and others will find it of practical value in public health and medical care, research, education, policy development, and advocacy.


Despite the tremendous improvements in overall health and life expectancy during the past century, at the start of the twenty-first century there are unconscionable gaps in health for many vulnerable groups, including racial and ethnic minorities and the poor. These gaps in health thrive in a climate of economic and social inequities. These inequities create the conditions that adversely affect the health of individuals and communities by denying individuals and groups the equal opportunity to meet their basic human needs.

Minority children and children from low-income families continue to lag behind their counterparts in almost every health indicator. Poor children are at least twice as likely as are nonpoor children to suffer stunted growth or lead poisoning. Black children and children from poor families are more likely to have disabling asthma. Infants born to black mothers are more than twice as likely as infants born to white mothers to die before their first birthdays. Black and Mexican-American children living in older (pre-1946) housing are more than twice as likely to have elevated blood lead levels as are white children living in comparable housing.

Quality health care alone, however, cannot prevent children from being poisoned by lead paint in deteriorating homes or developing asthma from fumes emitted by inadequately vented stoves. These disparities in children's health reflect the inequities in social and economic well-being of children and their . . .

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