Making the “Invisible” Visible: Battling Structural Racism Against Asians in the US

Editor-in-chief Dr. Lloyd Novick speaks with Dr. Naoko Muramatsu about Battling Structural Racism Against Asians in the United States: Call for Public Health to Make the “Invisible” Visible, an article which appears in a new supplement, Public Health Interventions to Address Health Disparities Associated with Structural Racism.

Violence and discrimination against Asians escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic, fueled by slurs such as “Chinese flu” and “kung flu.” On March 16, 2021, a gunman killed 8 people in Atlanta, including 6 Asian women, at 3 targeted spas. Anti-Asian racism has a long history and has taken a heavy toll on the health and well-being of Asians born in the United States or elsewhere.

However, Asians are invisible in public health, leaving their health disparities unaddressed. Why are Asians invisible? Invisible, because the racial category of “Asians” artificially masks the heterogeneity of Asians’ lived experiences in diverse social, cultural, political, and historical contexts. Invisible, because histories of structural racism against Asians are untold or unknown. Invisible, because stereotypes, such as “model minorities” and “perpetual foreigners,” make Asians appear unworthy of attention in public health and targets for scapegoating.

Dr. Muramatsu and Dr. Marshall Chin are the authors of a new commentary in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice that calls for public health to make the “invisible” visible for Asians who have suffered from structural racism. In Battling Structural Racism Against Asians in the United States: Call for Public Health to Make the “Invisible” Visible, Muramatsu and Chin urge public health to:

  • Collect and document the heterogeneous health needs and social determinants of health in Asians, because no data means no evidence of health inequity.
  • Empower Asians to address racism, invite Asians to advance racial equity, and make Asians feel welcome and included.
  • Reach out to Asians to share lived experiences of explicit or implicit racism in specific social, linguistic, and historical contexts.

If Asians are always waiting to be seen and valued in public health, we cannot create a society where all people reach their full potential.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Dr. Naoko Muramatsu

Naoko Muramatsu, PhD, MHSA, is a Professor of Community Health Sciences at University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health. Her research promotes the health of diverse aging populations and the quality of care nationally and globally. She is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America.

Dr. Marshall Chin

Marshall Chin, MD, MPH, is Richard Parrillo Family Professor of Healthcare Ethics in the Department of Medicine at University of Chicago and Co-Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Advancing Health Equity: Leading Care, Payment, and Systems Transformation program. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2017.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Muramatsu about her article with Dr. Chin. Listen to our podcast conversation below. 

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Author Profile

Lloyd F. Novick
Lloyd F. Novick, MD, MPH, is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Public Health at the Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University. Previously, he was chair of this Department. He has served as the Commissioner of Health and Secretary for Human Services of Vermont, Director of Health Services for Arizona, and Director of the Office of Public Health for New York State. Previous academic positions include Professor and Director of the Preventive Medicine Program for SUNY Upstate Medical University, Professor and Chair of Epidemiology at the University of Albany School of Public Health, and Clinical Professor and Director of the Teaching Program in Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Vermont, College of Medicine. He is the Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. He is also editor of five books, including Public Health Administration: Principles for Population-Based Management; Public Health Issues in Disaster Preparedness; Community-Based Prevention Programs that Work; Public Health Leaders Tell Their Stories; and Health Problems in the Prison Setting. He is past president of the Association of Teachers of Prevention and Research (APTR) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). He has received a number of national awards, including Special Recognition Award, American College of Preventive Medicine (2005); Duncan Clark Award, Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine (2003); Yale University Distinguished Service Award (2003); Excellence in Health Administration, American Public Health Association (2001); and the Arthur T. McCormack Award, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (1992). He is a graduate of Colgate University (BA), New York University (MD), and Yale University (MPH).