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Colour coded health care: The impact of race and racism on Canadians’ health

Colour Coded Health Care reviews the Canadian literature (1990-2010) on the impact of race and racism on health. Nestel explores the construct of race, and urges health service providers to move beyond biology and genetics‒which have little bearing on racial differences in health outcomes‒to understanding the social norms and structures that produce unequal healthcare experiences and health outcomes for racialized Canadians. The impact of these norms and structures are revealed in numerous studies: for example, studies found statistically significant associations between people’s self-assessed poor or fair health and their experience or perception of racism.   Other researchers found health care providers unconsciously racialized patients’ explanations by applying cultural or overly-simplified characteristics.  The author emphasizes that racism transcends socioeconomic and educational status in its impact on health, and introduces epidemiologist Nancy Krieger’s six pathways through which racism harms health.

Use this resource to:

  • Gain an understanding of the construction of race, and the pathways through which racism impacts health
  • Review empirical evidence showing the impact of racism on health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, occupational and environmental illness, diabetes, mental health, HIV/AIDS, and intimate partner violence
  • Learn about the need to disaggregate, or tease apart, data based on race

To download the flip sheet for this document, click here

Nestel, S. (2012). Colour coded health care: The impact of race and racism on Canadians’ health. Toronto, ON: Wellesley Institute.  Retrieved from Wellesley Institute website:


Tags: Racism/racialization, Report / Document