Public Health’s Approach to Systemic Racism: a Systematic Literature Review

  • Billie CastleEmail author
  • Monica Wendel
  • Jelani Kerr
  • Derrick Brooms
  • Aaron Rollins



Recently, public health has acknowledged racism as a social determinant of health. Much evidence exists on the impact of individual-level racism and discrimination, with little to no examination of racism from the standpoint of systems and structures. The purpose of this systematic literature review is to analyze the extent to which public health currently addresses systemic racism in the published literature.


Utilizing the PRISMA guidelines, this review examines three widely used databases to examine published literature covering the topic as well as implications for future research and practice.


A total of 85 articles were included in the review analysis after meeting study criteria.


Across numerous articles, the terms racism and systemic racism are largely absent. A critical need exists for an examination of the historical impact of systemic racism on the social determinants of health and health of marginalized populations.


Systemic racism Systematic review Health equity Health disparity gaps 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public Health and Information Sciences, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences DepartmentUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology, College of Arts and SciencesUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  3. 3.Department of Urban and Public Affairs, College of Arts and SciencesUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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