In free talk, scholar looks at how racism has historically affected Black people’s health

Black people have a lower life expectancy than their White peers and experience higher rates of chronic illness, less access to health care, and earlier onset of disease. That disproportionate health-care burden is linked to structural inequities, including greater rates of poverty and unemployment, higher exposure to environmental health hazards and the stress of centuries of discrimination, segregation and bigotry.

Kwate, a psychologist by training and an associate professor of both Africana studies and human ecology, focuses on race, neighborhoods and the health of Black people in America. She researches how racism affects immune health and is interested in how racism manifests itself in the environment in which Black people live.

She also has done extensive research in the fast-food industry’s historical relationship with the Black community, and wrote “Burgers in Blackface,” a look at how restaurants used Black stereotypes to market and brand their wares.

The event is part of five free historical talks to be held throughout the year. This year’s presentations will cover such issues as women in medicine and smallpox vaccination. Each highlights the National Library of Medicine’s vast collection of historical materials relating to medicine.

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