Study: Education, Interactions Can Change Perspective On Race

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People learn about racism and its effects on health from specific moments or events, according to a new study published this week in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

Cleveland State University assistant professor Colleen Walsh, who co-authored the study, says those perspective transformations could be meaningful interactions, like witnessing or really seeing racism, or educational experiences.

“Especially for white people, learning to see structural racism requires doing that work of grappling with our country’s deep history and its current reality," she said.

Walsh says the research means educational trainings about race could have an impact on people’s understanding of racism, which could then impact the way people think and act.

Walsh says studying how to change the way people think about structural racism is part of plan to eliminate it and reduce health disparities that come from it. According to the study, the United States continues to have racial and ethnic health inequities, and it will require policy changes and an increased understanding of structural racism to change it.

The study started with 170 interviews with residents of diverse backgrounds and ideologies in the Cleveland area. The new article focuses on 50 participants who are involved with HIP-Cuyahoga, a group involved in impacting health in Northeast Ohio.

In the interviews, 70 percent of these participants described specific experiences of “perspective transformation” that led to an increased understanding of structural racism.

Walsh says these participants were already engaged and knowledgeable about health disparities, and the next phase of her research will study whether community members have also experienced moments or events that have shifted their perspective on race.  

Walsh has been working on this research for years, but she says the timing of the study's publication is especially relevant as the country has more conversations about race, surrounding protests against police brutality

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