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Let's Talk: Whiteness and health equity

This resource is also available in French.

This installation of the Let’s Talk series introduces the concept of Whiteness to public health audiences. Whiteness, in this publication, refers to “the practices, policies and perspectives that create and enable the dominance of White people, norms and culture, in institutions, systems and society” [1, p.2].

In addition to providing a definition of Whiteness, the paper describes White privilege and settler colonialism, providing examples of how Whiteness is manifested in public health research, practice and policy. It goes on to highlight examples of how Whiteness is not only detrimental to Black, Indigenous and other racialized peoples; Whiteness also impacts the health and well-being of White people.

Taken together, the harmful impact of Whiteness on all of society indicates the need to work collectively to address structural racism, Whiteness and the elimination of racial health inequities. To this end, the authors provide examples of how we can take a critical Whiteness approach to work to reduce racialized health inequities at the individual, institutional and systemic levels.

Disrupting Whiteness

The resource also includes insights for practitioners on how to centralize the disruption of Whiteness as an explicit focus in work to improve the health and well-being of communities.

Stressing the importance of unlearning Whiteness, Let’s Talk: Whiteness and health equity offers three broad roles and opportunities for public health to meaningfully address Whiteness and shift power. These roles are:

  • engaging in institutional change;
  • supporting community-driven action; and
  • contributing to changes in public policy.

Like other entries in the Let’s Talk series, this document includes the discussion questions for individuals and organizations. These discussion questions support reflection and practice change related to key issues raised in the paper.

A curated reading list on Whiteness with selected resources for public health will be available in 2021. Let's Talk: Whiteness and health equity is a companion document to Let's Talk: Racism and health equity.

Use this document to:

  • reflect on your racial identity and your responses to discussions of racism, Whiteness and White supremacy;
  • identify examples of how Whiteness shows up in public health;
  • describe the impact of Whiteness on health and well-being; and
  • identify entry points for public health organizations to disrupt Whiteness in practice and policy.

Work cited

 [1] National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health. (2020). Let’s Talk: Whiteness and Health Equity. Antigonish, NS: NCCDH, St. Francis Xavier University. 

Reference

 National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health. (2020). Let’s Talk: Whiteness and Health Equity. Antigonish, NS: NCCDH, St. Francis Xavier University. 

Related resources

Tags: Indigenous health , Racism/racialization, National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, Report / Document

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