Culture of Health Program
Everyone in this country deserves the opportunity to be healthy and reach their full potential no matter who they are or where they live.
Yet, some groups face barriers, based on factors like where they live or their race, ethnicity, or gender, that have a direct and negative impact on their health. These barriers are not random or accidental. They are a direct result of policy decisions, from the national to the institutional level, and structures that create and sustain social and economic inequality and structural racism in this country. Policies and structures determine whose air and water is clean; who has access to good schools, jobs, and affordable housing; where parks, grocery stores, and hospitals are located; which communities are safe to be active outdoors; and much more. All of these factors play a critical role in determining people’s health and well-being. Sustainable change to eliminate barriers to good health starts with a focus on addressing these underlying influences.
Addressing the underlying causes of inequity requires understanding that Black, Indigenous, and people of color experience worse health outcomes, even when controlling for socioeconomic status, and that these disparities reflect and contribute to the impact of structural racism. With the nation readier than ever before to acknowledge structural racism and the unequal allocation of power and resources as root causes of health inequity, the United States has an extraordinary opportunity to advance health equity.
We need to recognize and understand the ways in which new and existing policies and practices impact the health of people and communities differently, especially those most affected by structural racism. Acknowledging structural racism and unequal allocation of power and resources as root causes of health inequity in this country does not exclude the significance of other factors such as gender or disability status. Ultimately, understanding how the environments and experiences of different groups are shaped by the unique barriers and biases they face – starting with structural racism and then layering additional lenses – can improve the health of the entire nation. Together we can create evidence-based solutions that address the root causes of inequity and promote health and well-being for all.
About the Program
The National Academy of Medicine’s Culture of Health Program, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is a multiyear collaborative effort to identify strategies to create and sustain conditions that support equitable good health for everyone in America. The program focuses on four approaches that build upon and reinforce each other:
- Understand: building, informing, and elevating the evidence base, including evidence from the lived experience of health inequity, to better understand and eliminate health inequities
- Translate: communicating the evidence in a timely and culturally appropriate manner to bring understanding of the strongest science to those working to advance health equity
- Engage: ensuring that key stakeholders working at every level to eliminate health inequities are provided the evidence-related tools they need to ensure their effectiveness
- Learn: learning in real time from our activities to ensure effective and equitable evaluation and metrics of impact
Since launching, the program released four consensus studies, held a nationwide community art project and an art project inspired by young leaders, developed a community documentary series, created a model for communities to develop targeted strategies to promote health equity locally, and traveled the country to learn how communities are promoting health equity on the ground. Additional public meetings, activities, and tools are forthcoming through 2024.
Disproportionate outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and people of color related to COVID-19 most recently illuminate the structural barriers to good health faced by our nation’s marginalized populations. The Culture of Health Program is committed to recognizing, understanding, and eliminating health inequities and the factors, systems, and policies that enable them – including structural racism and the unequal allocation of power and resources. As COVID-19 commands the attention of our nation, we face an extraordinary opportunity to advance health equity, and the Culture of Health Program has therefore compiled a list of resources to support the health and well-being of those disproportionately impacted during the crises faced now by our nation and beyond.