Systemic: How Racism Is Making Us Ill by MJA member Layal Liverpool

By June 10, 2024Books, Public

Systemic is an investigation of the shocking and insidious ways in which racism harms health – and an exploration of how we can tackle the problem to create a fairer and healthier world.

Systemic: How Racism is Making Us Ill (Bloomsbury Publishing, UK)
Systemic: How Racism is Making Us Sick (Astra House Publishing, US)

I recently became a mum in a world where, in the UK, Black women like me are four times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth, compared to White women. As a science journalist with a medical research background, I felt compelled to investigate further, and I was shocked by what I discovered.

Beyond maternity, there are racial and ethnic inequities across health conditions, including infectious diseases — as we observed with covid-19 — cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health conditions. These health gaps exist not only in the UK but in the US and in other countries globally. Burgeoning scientific evidence shows that wherever there is racism, there is also health inequity. Racism is a public health crisis.

But I remain hopeful; recognising that racism is behind so much unfairness in health is empowering, because it means we can begin to tackle the problem. There are many fantastic people and organisations sounding the alarm on this issue and working towards positive change. They are showing us that there is nothing inevitable about racial health gaps.

For example, we can teach doctors to recognise health conditions across diverse skin tones, since skin is very often a window into our overall health. We can remove racial bias from clinical algorithms and from medical studies, improving treatments and research findings for all of us. We can feel empowered to take control of our health journeys and demand fair treatment, whatever our background. And, beyond healthcare, we can support campaigns for clean air and healthier living environments for everyone.

The evidence tells us that if we can tackle racism in society, in healthcare and in science, we’re all going to be healthier and happier.

Systemic: How Racism Is Making Us Ill is out 6 June in the UK and 18 June in the US.

For book-related enquiries please contact Hayley Camis  (UK) or Emily Lavelle (US). You can also contact Layal’s literary agent Will Francis .

Layal Liverpool
Science journalist & author


Sallie Robins

Author Sallie Robins

 MJA Administrator

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